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Wrap up on how people become sexually knowledgeable

How do people become sexually knowledgeable? What does the word "taboo" do in how we understand the variety of ways people become knowledgeable?
Wordcloud illustration: clouds with varying words relevant for sexual wellbeing surrounding a woman.
© University of Groningen

How do people become sexually knowledgeable? That was the focus of this activity.

In dr Amisah Bakuri’s video lecture she discussed how the Somali women she did her research with talk about the different contexts in which they learned about sex, how they found it embarrassing to talk about sex with older people and in which contexts they felt more comfortable. They also talked about how their sexual well-being and religious piety were bound up with each other.

You explored the contexts in which people become sexually knowledgeable in your own environment through a discussion.

We also saw a more formal context for learning: Dutch high schools. In his lecture, dr Jelle Wiering explained how Dutch sex education, one of the achievements the Dutch are often quite proud of, works out in practice. Dutch sex educators are strongly informed by the ‘grand scheme’ of sexual and reproductive health and rights. Openness about sex and breaking taboos in talking about sex are highly valued.

However, as dr Wiering’s research showed, this emphasis on openness at all costs has some unintended consequences. One of them is that there is very little attention for the fact that a classroom is not necessarily a safe space for high school students to openly talk about sex. When the emphasis is on ‘breaking taboos’, any reticence in speaking about sex is seen as an obstacle to be removed. But perhaps it is not so strange people do not want to share very personal stories with their peers and their elders.

We zoomed in on the term ‘taboo’ with a discussion, a word frequently used in Dutch conversations about sex education. In speaking about religious minorities, at some point they are said to ‘still have many taboos’ in speaking about sex. Sometimes spokespersons of these minorities say this themselves too. In this dynamic, it can sometimes feel as if one culture, in this case the dominant Dutch culture, is somehow ‘ahead’ in development, where other cultures still have to catch up. In week one, we already discussed how counter productive such dynamics can be.

In this course, we have encouraged you to explore all the different ways culture and religion may inform sexual wellbeing. In the Dutch context, we often found that the word ‘taboo’ obscured a better understanding of what exactly informed different views on sexual wellbeing, rather as in the picture shown below:

Morality wordcloud
Worldcloud illustration with only the world ‘morality’ visible in it. © University of Groningen.

We hope you have learned to unpack that fuzzy cloud and explore it, so that it will look like this:

Wordcloud sexual wellbeing
Wordcloud illustration clouds with varying words relevant for sexual wellbeing surrounding a woman. © University of Groningen.

© University of Groningen
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Religion and Sexual Wellbeing: Pleasure, Piety, and Reproductive Rights

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