Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The remaking of federal abstinence policy in local community organizations
by Hess, Amie, Ph.D., New York University, 2009, 292; 3365703
Abstract (Summary)

Abstinence is currently our nation's de facto sex education policy. But what is abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education? What is the impact of federal abstinence-only sex education policy on the construction of gender and sexuality among American youth? I argue that sex education is a key site for understanding critical shifts in the content, funding, and delivery of American social policies. Drawing on two years of ethnography in two community-based abstinence-only sex education providers and interviews with twenty one additional abstinence-only providers, my research examines the mechanisms by which federal abstinence policy is remade at the local level. Through processes of discursive and practical translation, providers use multiple strategies to make abstinence education work in their communities. Local providers express a profound ambivalence regarding abstinence-only sex education which they carry over into their programmatic structure, working to find ways to minimize troubling themes in the national-level pro-abstinence discourse. Turning to a detailed examination of localized implementation practices in two abstinence organizations, I find that while local abstinence programs diverge in their negotiated constructions of sex and gender, they ultimately converge to reinforce a heterosexual norm and feminize the work of sexual responsibility. Adolescents also play an active, though mitigated, role in negotiating gendered meanings. Factors including organizational philosophy, staffing patterns, and programmatic approach impact patterns of convergence and divergence in organizational practices. This research suggests that while interpretative room is available in the new state spaces that emerged under devolutionary governance strategies, these spaces remain institutionally constrained in ways that reproduce disempowering gendered expectations.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Haney, Lynne
Commitee: Amenta, Edwin, Ertman, Thomas, Stacey, Judith
School: New York University
Department: Sociology
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 70/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Sociology, Gender studies
Keywords: Abstinence, Community organizations, Federal policy, Sex education
Publication Number: 3365703
ISBN: 978-1-109-25858-5
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