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The chapters in Investigating Young People's Sexual Cultures were previously published as articles for a special issue of Sex Education. This is a scholarly collection of papers, mostly in the area of sociology. There are 10 chapters, and while there is no shared thesis of all the papers, there is a generally shared theme of caution regarding the frequent reporting in popular culture of the surge in young people's sexual behavior, their sexual exploitation, and especially the so-called "pornification" of society. The authors report results of research and discuss its relation to what else we know about the role of sexuality in youth culture. The authors have done their research in Greece, Italy, Australia, and also discuss trends in Western Europe and North America. While there are social changes to be found, there are also many continuities with the past both in behavioral patterns and attitudes. Furthermore, people are not necessarily passive and uncritical regarding media messages, and they are able to express their own ideas and desires. We should not just assume that people are passive victims of manipulation and exploitation, and some authors are critical of the rhetoric about the danger to young girls and the need to protect them from anything with sexual content. They do not dismiss such concerns, but they question the political motivation behind their expression, and highlight the problematic assumptions about the purity or non-sexuality of young women.
Written by academics, these papers are somewhat technical and abstruse, using terminology that will be unfamiliar to the general reader, and with a great deal of referring to previous research, making the flow of reading much more interrupted. But there are useful abstracts and introductory paragraphs that help those who are not well versed in the sociological and theoretical literature through the difficulties, and the basic ideas are not hard to grasp. To give a few examples: Lemish explains how those who work in children's television report the increasing difficult of addressing any issues of sexuality in their programming. Albury et al discuss the fallout from allegations of sexual assault of young men in an Australian professional rugby league, and the efforts of their national organization to prevent more abuse occurring in the future. The authors write in mostly approving terms about the assumptions and methods of the report that resulted. Formby looks at three UK studies of the experiences of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth, and emphasizes how they are often marginalized and unrecognized in education and health policy, and she urges a more inclusive approach for those who formulate policy.
Given that so much attention is given in the media to issues concerning the sexual lives of young people, and so many political pressures are involved in the public discourse, it is particularly important that academics pay attention to problematic assumptions and aspects of people's lives that would otherwise go underappreciated. So this collection of articles put together by Feona Attwood and Clarissa Smith will be a valuable resource for other researchers and activists aiming to make the public debate better informed.
© 2015 Christian Perring
Christian Perring, Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York
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