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.