A discourse of disconnect: young people from the Eastern Cape talk about the failure of adult communications to provide habitable sexual subject positions

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 3
  • Abstract:

    Face-to-face adult communication with young people about sexuality is, for the most part, assigned to two main groups of people: educators tasked with teaching schoolbased sexuality education that is provided as part of the compulsory Life Orientation (LO) learning area, and parents. In this paper, we report on a study conducted with Further Education and Training College students in an Eastern Cape town. Using a discursive psychology lens, we analysed data from, first, a written question on what participants remember being taught about sexuality in LO classes and, second, focus group discussions held with mixed and same-sex groups. Discussions were structured around the sexualities of high school learners and the LO sexuality education that participants received at high school. We highlight participants’ common deployment of a ‘discourse of disconnect’ in their talk. In this discourse, the messages of ‘risk’ and ‘responsibility’ contained in adult face-to-face communications, by both parents and LO teachers, are depicted as being delivered through inadequate or nonrelational styles of communication, and as largely irrelevant to participants’ lives. Neither of these sources of communication was seen as understanding the realities of youth sexualities or as creating habitable or performable sexual subject positions. The dominance of this ‘discourse of disconnect’ has implications for how sexuality education and parent communication interventions are conducted.