Empowering prevention? Adolescent female sexuality, advocacy and schooling

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Cultural Foundations of Education


Sari Knopp Biklen


Teen pregnancy, Gender studies, Adolescent, Sexuality, Advocacy, Schooling

Subject Categories

Education | Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education


Empowering Prevention examines how adult female educators working within the umbrella of pregnancy prevention services at an urban school district struggled to provide access to services and sexuality education for all young people in their district. This project analyzed interviews with students, teachers and administrators, sexual health curriculum and other institutional documents, and fieldwork across three sites--a school based health clinic, a high school sex education class, and daycare center for student parents--to examine how advocates made sense of their work, students' needs, and their advocacy for inclusive and comprehensive sexual health services. Empowering Prevention argues that advocating for young people's sexual health rights was complicated and more than a function of an individual's good intentions. In this fairly comprehensive setting, even educators/advocates who felt they had great freedom to support the sexual health rights of young women could not successfully shape empowering educational contexts for all young women. The discourses of education and adolescent female sexuality framing their advocacy structured their support in ways that often undermined and subverted their intentions. In the end, I argue that the progressive policies and curriculum associated with sexuality education and pregnancy prevention efforts at Eastman School District worked not only to mask, but uphold institutionalized racism, sexism and heterosexism, despite advocates' intentions to do otherwise. Increased access to services, information, and critical analysis skills for students, and enhanced collaboration and opportunities for critical analysis and planning for educators are important to facilitating more inclusive sexual health environments for youth.


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