Controlling Passion? A Review of Recent Developments in British Sex Education

Sarah Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article traces the shifts in the conception of sex education in English schools from 1968 to 2010, drawing upon policy documents, teaching handbooks, and teachers’ schemes of work. Two distinctive forms of sex education have emerged over the past twenty years: a mandatory sex education focussed on the risks of HIV/AIDS and later teenage pregnancy; and a non-curricular sex education based on a discourse of emotional wellbeing and personal development. Far from being mutually-exclusive, these two forms of education have, in recent years, started to overlap. Mastering a certain style of emotional expression is regularly framed as a means of avoiding ‘high risk’ sexual encounters and teenage sex is often described as damaging one’s emotional wellbeing. The article offers a critique of the emotionalisation of sex, arguing that it prescribes a certain emotional disposition, mystifies sex for young people, and transforms teenage pregnancy and STIs into problems of emotional maturity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-40
JournalHealth, Risk and Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • sex and relationships education
  • PSHE
  • risk
  • pregnancy
  • emotional harm

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