Chapter 3: Engaging with the Politics of Porn: Coming in ‘Slantwise’ with Contemporary Art in the Sexuality Education Classroom

  • Kathleen Quinlivan
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Gender and Education book series (GED)


This chapter suggests approaches that can engage open-endedly with the ways in which sexuality and relationships are currently being configured in a neoliberal era of consumption and commodification in the sexuality education classroom. Drawing on Fine and Mclelland’s (2006) concept of notion of thick desire as a way to respond meaningfully to the lived complexities of diverse young people’s lives, I explore the possibilities of orientating the curriculum in ways which respond to issues of concern to students, in this case, a student-led invitation to engage with the politics of porn. I suggest that engaging with the visual arts, in this case paintings, provides an open- ended way to engage thoughtfully and critically with porn. The chapter utilises Deleuze and Guattari’s (1987) philosophical concept of deterritorialisation as a way to consider how young people’s engagement with paintings opens possibilities for a reconsideration of normative assumptions about pleasure and desire in ways that could be meaningful to them. Drawing on a series of paintings by New Zealand artist Linda James, I show how engaging with paintings could provide both teachers and students with a way to connect- both intellectually and affectively, with the politics of pleasure, as a broader social and political issue. Such an approach calls for an experimental orientation to sexuality education encounters in the classroom that could engage carefully and thoughtfully with young people’s responses to contemporary issues such as porn in ways that are relevant to their own experiences.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathleen Quinlivan
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand

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