Reading Girlhood on Screen for Citizenship and Values Education

Project Number
SUG 12/15 JRG

Project Duration
November 2015 - November 2017


Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) policy demonstrates remarkable homogeneity across divergent national contexts (Ringrose 2013). It is primarily organised around principles of sexual risk and protection in ways which are highly gendered, focusing on disease prevention and pregnancy in a manner which constructs sexual activity as natural for boys yet a risk which girls should delay as long as possible (Harris 2004). Girls are also positioned in typical SRE guidance as passive sexual recipients who are nonetheless responsible for managing sexual conduct in heterosexual contracts (Renold 2010). This can largely be attributed to anxiety surrounding female sexuality historically associated with ‘excess’; of what is ‘required’, ‘necessary’, and ‘sufficient’ (McClelland and Fine 2008). In response to the gender bias of school-based sexuality education programmes, girls are increasing turning towards the media for alternative models of intimacy and sexual decision-making (Projansky and Vande Berg 2000). This study proposes to examine issues surrounding intimacy and sexuality in contemporary cinema by carrying out focus group discussions with NIE’s pre-service students with reference to “teachable moments” in contemporary cinema. By considering the representation of girls’ sexuality on screen, it aims to answer the following questions: How can cinema be used in the classroom to enhance awareness of issues surrounding intimacy, sexual boundaries and sexual decision-making? How can cinema help girls to navigate social pressures and double-binds which encourage them to cultivate physical desirability while simultaneously regulating their own sexual conduct? How can teachers initiate a discussion of cinema in the classroom in ways which help adolescent girls foster positive values towards their bodies and sexuality?

Funding Source

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