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“It’s Like Doing Homework”

Academic Achievement Discourse in Adolescent Girls’ Fellatio Narratives

Abstract

Young women’s narratives of their sexual experiences occur amid conflicting cultural discourses of risk, abstinence, and moral panic. Yet young women, as social actors, find ways to make meaning of their experiences through narrative. In this study, we focused on adolescent girls’ (N = 98, age 12–17 years) narratives of their first experiences with oral sex. We document our unexpected findings of persistent discourses of performance which echo newly emergent academic achievement discourses. Burns and Torre (Feminism & Psychology 15(1):21–26, 2005) argue that an extreme and high stakes focus on individual academic achievement in schools impoverishes young minds through the “hollowing” of their sexualities. We present evidence that such influence also works in the opposite direction, with an achievement orientation invading girls’ discourses of sexuality, “crowding out” possible narratives of pleasure, choice, and mutuality with narratives of competence and skill usually associated with achievement and schooling. We conclude with policy implications for the future development of “positive” sexuality narratives.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Initially legislated for 5 years and subsequently extended, the NCLB act is expected to be reauthorized with modifications by the Obama administration. For text of the act, see: http://www2.ed.gov/nclb/landing.jhtml

    For a summary of NCLB, see: http://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/no-child-left-behind/.

  2. 2.

    Not all interviewees necessarily completed both surveys. For those who completed both surveys (N = 83), 94% (N = 78) had had sexual intercourse and 90% (N = 75) had received oral sex.

  3. 3.

    Because adolescent female desire as “appetite driven” is only acceptable in the context of a romantic heterosexual relationship (Risman and Schwartz 2002), female pleasure can only be acceptably experienced as competence, mastery, and occasionally by occupying the more active and “male” position of sexual prowess.

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Correspondence to April Burns.

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Burns, A., Futch, V.A. & Tolman, D.L. “It’s Like Doing Homework”. Sex Res Soc Policy 8, 239 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-011-0062-1

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Keywords

  • Sexuality narratives
  • Adolescent sexuality
  • Fellatio
  • Academic achievement