‘Why Aren’t You a Woman?’: Gender and Secular Affect in the Dutch Field of Sexual Health

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This article draws on anthropological fieldwork among Dutch sexual health professionals to explore the ways Dutch secular sex education classes are gendered. By investigating how the discourse of liberal secular sexuality becomes reified in the concrete setting of sex education classes, the article brings together two theoretical fields within the study of the secular: secularity and its entanglements with gender and sexuality; and scholarly inquiry into secular bodies and affect. The article argues that these sex education classes communicate a binary heterosexual understanding of sexuality, which ascribes feminine sexuality the role of sexuality managers, and masculine sexuality the role of passive observers. The promotion of these gendered roles in sex education classes implies that feminine sexuality is cultivated to be burdened with a challenging and pressuring responsibility, whereas masculine sexuality is subtly exempted from taking up a responsible role in thinking about sex. This gendered differentiation, cultivated through sex education, helps to sustain secular associations of femininity with responsibilities and roles in managing the private sphere, as opposed to the association of masculinity with roles and responsibilities in the public sphere.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-72
Number of pages14
JournalNew Diversities
Issue number2
Early online date10-Oct-2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec-2022

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