ArticlesVolume 15, Number 1 (2006)

Some Abcs of Feminist Sex Education (in Light of the Sexuality Critique of Legal Feminism)

Abstract

This Essay has two aims. First, it offers some guiding principles, or “ABCs,” for a feminist vision of sex education. Second, in keeping with this symposium’s topic, “Sexuality and the Law,” the Essay evaluates that feminist project in light of what the I call “the sexuality critique” of legal feminism-a line of criticism leveled by feminist and post-feminist scholars against feminist legal theorists’ work on sexuality. The ABCs advanced here reflect a liberal feminist approach to sex education, which stresses the three themes of fostering capacity, equality, and responsibility. Such an approach, the Essay maintains, is better suited for facilitating the development of young women’s and men’s capacities for responsible sexual self-government than the abstinence-until-marriage model of sex education (“abstinence-only”) embraced in the federal welfare law codified as the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. “Abstinence-only” sex education reflects a conservative sexual economy. As put into practice in various curricula funded by the federal government, such sex education is laden with gender role stereotypes about “his” and “her” sexuality that reinforce women’s role as sexual gatekeepers.