Emotional scripts of sex panics

  • Janice M. Irvine
Other Articles


This article examines the emotional dynamics of local sex panics over sex education. It argues that local sex panics are not spontaneous eruptions of community outrage; they are political events with a strikingly scripted quality. Sex panics are fueled by emotional scripts—rhetoric strategically crafted to produce volatile emotional responses. In turn, these emotional scripts produce heated emotions—anger and disgust—displayed in ritualized ways in public arenas. In local sex panics we see that emotions are neither irrational nor simply spontaneous; rather they are norm-bound behavior and often meaningful forms of social and political communication produced in response to emotional scripts. The emotions of sex panics represent a means by which moral entrepreneurs attempt to reinforce conservative sexual morality.

Key words

moral panic sex education affective politics sexual rights 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of MassachusettsAmherst

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