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Diversity in sex and relationship education – limitations and possibilities in Swedish biology textbooks
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Science and Mathematics Education. Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Umeå Centre for Gender Studies (UCGS). (UmSER)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7282-2092
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Science and Mathematics Education. (UmSER)ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3614-1692
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Education.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-6413-6538
2022 (English)In: Sex Education: Sexuality, Society and Learning, ISSN 1468-1811, E-ISSN 1472-0825, Vol. 22, no 5, p. 521-537Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Shortcomings in sex and relationship education (SRE) related to norms and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexuality (LGBTQIA) perspectives have been reported internationally and in Sweden. This paper reports on findings from a critical study of SRE content in Swedish biology textbooks for 13- to 16-year-old pupils, with the aim of revealing which sexual orientations and bodies are made visible or invisible in the texts. About 200 quotations were selected and analysed, quantitatively and qualitatively, with a focus on limitations and possibilities. The results show that LGBT content is visible in all SRE chapters. However, sexual orientation is often constructed as fixed. Furthermore, stereotypical gender binaries are reinforced via heteronormative assumptions regarding hormones, genitals and reproduction, focusing on differences instead of similarities, and thus limiting the‌ potential to widen non-binary perceptions of bodies and sexualities. Our quantitative analyses reveal that there are few, if any, queer, intersex, asexual or crip/disability representations. If gaps in young people’s knowledge regarding norms, intersex, asexuality, queer and crip sexualities are to be filled in order to promote equality and diversity, it is important to rethink the SRE content of Swedish biology textbooks.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2022. Vol. 22, no 5, p. 521-537
Keywords [en]
crip, heteronormativity, queer, Sexualities, textbooks
National Category
Gender Studies Didactics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-187934DOI: 10.1080/14681811.2021.1966407ISI: 000698221900001Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85115264403OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-187934DiVA, id: diva2:1597735
Available from: 2021-09-27 Created: 2021-09-27 Last updated: 2023-12-19Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Balansakter - kroppar, sexualiteter och det oväntade: kritiska och didaktiska perspektiv på sexualundervisning inom biologiämnet
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Balansakter - kroppar, sexualiteter och det oväntade: kritiska och didaktiska perspektiv på sexualundervisning inom biologiämnet
2023 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[en]
Balancing acts – bodies, sexualities, and the unexpected : critical and educational perspectives on sex education within biology
Abstract [en]

Sexuality education (SE) involves topics that can be perceived as sensitive and private, which creates challenges for teachers. Teachers in Sweden feel uncomfortable with the subject of SE, as they lack knowledge about LGBTQ issues and experience uncertainty in handling charged discussions. Therefore, teachers need tools for teaching this subject, regarding both the content itself and the teaching methods. Aiming to facilitate inclusive SE, this thesis thus contributes to the knowledge of contemporary SE in Sweden. Two studies were conducted: the first addressing Swedish Biology textbooks in grades 7-9, and the second involving classroom observations in three different teachers’ SE teaching in grade 8. These studies were developed into four papers.

Paper 1 presents a content analysis of five Swedish Biology textbooks using feminist, crip and queer perspectives. The results show that trans persons, homosexuality, bisexuality, and heterosexuality are standard content. Representations of disabilities are sparse, while intersex and asexuality are not included. In paper 2, Swedish whiteness is analysed in the textbooks and teacher interviews through the lens of critical race theory. The findings reveal that references to legislation, science, progression, ethnicity, tradition, and culture construct Swedish whiteness as a ‘happy’ place ‘here’, in contrast to less happy places elsewhere, far away ‘there’. Paper 3 concerns different tensions that arise during classroom teaching and how teachers balance these situations. Both the anti-oppressive strategies and the teaching methods focused on processes, facts, and relations are analysed. The results show that teachers can use tensions in SE to challenge prejudice and heteronormative assumptions. Also, teachers’ inclusion of students’ thoughts and worlds, even around controversial topics, creates recognition, subjectification, and meaning making for the students. Paper 4 explores how teachers handle unexpected situations in SE classrooms. The short interruptions are analysed through the theoretical concepts becomings, intensity, and glow.

According to the results, when teachers capture unexpected comments, student engagement is aroused, allowing new concepts to enrich the SE content. In sum, this thesis concludes that SE needs to embrace more diverse content. This could be achieved through fluid conceptions of bodies and sexualities, thus facilitating students' recognition and subjectification, especially through the inclusion of nuances of asexuality, alternative family constellations, intersex, and crip. Finally, teachers need to welcome tensions and the unexpected as rich possibilities to capture new SE content and to create student engagement.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå University, 2023. p. 91
Keywords
Sexuality education, Biology textbooks, classroom, crip, queer, Swedish whiteness, LGTBQAI, the unexpected, sexualundervisning, biologiböcker, klassrum, hbtqia, crip, vithet, det oväntade, didaktik
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
didactics of natural science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-218280 (URN)978-91-7855-993-0 (ISBN)978-91-7855-994-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2024-01-26, Rotundan, Universums Gränd 8, Umeå, 13:15 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2023-12-21 Created: 2023-12-19 Last updated: 2023-12-20Bibliographically approved

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Junkala, HanneleBerge, MariaSilfver, Eva

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