A few weeks ago, I performed at the Three Minute Thesis at Marquette University with other fellow grad students. The purpose is to explain your dissertation work in three minutes or less. You can see the video here. The first thirty seconds the audio is off, but the rest of it is fine. Alternatively, you can read the transcript below.
Harvey Weinstein, Louis CK, Kevin Spacey. We recognize these now-infamous names because they have been accused of sexual assault. They have taken advantage of their status and exploited those who are vulnerable. This is a sad consequence how people don’t take care of the sexual self. How do we prevent this? This cultural crisis calls for a new approach to sexuality education.
My research investigates the moral assumptions of sex ed programs in the United States. After looking at countless syllabi, I have determined there are three different moral foundations that underlie existing sex ed programs. The first are abstinence only programs, but this doesn’t work, empirical research shows that gender discrepancies are presented as inevitable.
The second model is what I call consequentialist sex ed, which emphasizes avoiding negative consequences such as unwanted pregnancies and STIs. This model is an improvement since it empowers students with essential knowledge such as anatomy and sexual mechanics. But this model is still limited because it fails to discuss many forms of sexuality and gender such as intersex and transgender folks.
The third model is what I call consent-based sex ed, which teaches sexual consent. With the cultural recockening of the MeToo movement, this is the best model since current conversations largely revolve around how to properly give and receive consent.
While this model definitely improves on the previous two models, there is still something lacking. Most importantly, this model fails to address the gender inequality at the root of the problematic power dynamics. For example, if to receive consent is to garner a yes, then all men have to do is manipulate woman to get that yes.
These three models focus on a person‘s behavior, but sexuality is much deeper. Therefore we need another model that focuses on what I call care of the sexual self.
For simplicity, I analyze care of the sexual self to three components: the sexual emotions, the sexual mind, and the sexual body. A comprehensive sex ed program helps students train the moral sexual character by disciplining whether those components are coming from their authentic character, or if these ideas were simply societal expectations. This model, thereby, helps students question their own social mores and understand various forms of sexualities and genders. The upshot is to implement this into public policy where the ethical considerations are to not only focus on avoiding assaultive behavior, but also cultivating a character where they wouldn’t want to in the first place and help reject the Weinsteins of the world.