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Analytical Essay on the Lived Experiences of Those Who Have Received Sex Education

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The aim of this report is to look at the lived experiences of those who have received sex education while at school, and the impacts this education has on people in their later lives. Previous research has been evaluated in the Irish context, yet no research has looked into creating more inclusive sex education in Ireland. This research report will look at the need for feminist-based sex education in Ireland and pose the question; What do young people think of the sex education they received, and is the solution a focus on feminist theories of sex education?

Sex education was implemented first, in Sweden in 1955 (European expert group on sexuality education, 2015). Since the 1970s sex education has been a subject taught in schools across Western Europe. The idea of what sex education should be, differs across countries and periods in time. In the 60s, education focused strongly on the prevention of unwanted pregnancies. In the 80s, the focus shifted to the prevention of HIV, while in the 90s education was based on sexual abuse; its meanings of it, and how to deal with it (European expert group on sexuality education, 2015). The current sex education system in Ireland was developed in 1996 (Nohilly and Farrelly, 2017). The system is called, Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) (Nohilly and Farrelly, 2017). The RSE curriculum focuses on relationships and gaining self-confidence, rather than focusing on sexuality, or positive sex education (Bourke et al., 2014). This report aims to investigate how changing sex education policies affect people in their later lives.

This report aims to investigate sex education in Irish schools and solve the underlying issues which persist in this education system. In 2015 a strategy was developed across Ireland called the National sexual health strategy 2015-2020. This National Sexual Health Strategy is Ireland’s first national framework for sexual health and wellbeing. The strategy aims to implement a new sex education system in Ireland by 2020. In this study, I will aim to report if feminist, sex-positive theories can solve the issues of the failing sex education system in Ireland. This research report, will ask the question; What do young people think of the sex education they received, and is the solution a focus on feminist theories of sex education?

Literature review:

Previous qualitative reviews of sex education in Ireland provide an interesting basis for this research report. Common themes emerged reflecting, that any form of sex education is important providing people with a basis on contraception and a preventive basis for STIs. Kelleher et al (2013), studied to what extent education has impacted the outcomes of adults in their sexual behaviors. This study investigated that 70% of adults have received some sort of sex education. Kelleher et al (2013) concluded that any form of sex education tended to have a positive influence on first sex of participants, and increased the likelihood of contraception throughout someone’s sexual life (Kelleher et al., 2013), and STI testing which is important in reducing the possible sexual health diseases (Kelleher et al., 2013). Bourke et al., (2014) study found similar data to Kelleher. The study proved that any form of sex education received by the participants significantly increased the likelihood of using contraception at first sex, while also acting as a preventative factor to negative sexual health practices in participants’ future lives (Bourke et al., 2014). This study also concluded that sex education is of most importance to vulnerable groups in society, that may be at risk (Bourke et al., 2014). This report will aim to create an inclusive sex education, and critique the lack of openness, and preventative-focused nature of sex education in Irish schools. Bourke et al., (2014) studies report a strong level of dissatisfaction with sex education in Irish schools. The system was critiqued by a lack of openness about sex and sexuality (Bourke et al., 2014). Pound et at., (2016) study explains that school sex education is out of touch with young people’s lives (Pound et al., 2016). A study in Auckland, argued the same point, stating that young people are less likely to benefit of take part in from sex education if they see it as irrelevant to their lives (Cameron-Lewis, 2016). Pound et at., (2016) noted that young people viewed sex education as negative, gendered and heterosexist (Pound et at.,2016). Wilentz (2016), studied RSE in Ireland and stated that there should be levels of accountability; which include; fully completing courses of RSE, and the delivery of unbiased sex programs to prevent stigmatizing of nonabstinence sex education (Wilentz, 2016). This lack of sex-positive teaching left young men feeling worried about their lack of knowledge about sex, while young women felt they would be sexually harassed if they took part in the class (Pound et al., 2016), it also causes images of girls especially as ‘bad’ or ‘slutty’ (Lamb, Lustig and Grading, 2013). This report aims to create an inclusive sex education, focusing on feminist frameworks.


The development of new sex education practices and policies emerged from the second-wave feminist movement in the 1960s (Cameron-Lewis, 2016). Feminists argue for sex-positive education (Lamb et al., 2013). Feminist frameworks have critiqued the restrictive-preventative nature of sex education in Irish, and argue for creating a positive student education (Cameron-Lewis, 2016). This study aims to look at four feminist frameworks, in order to dismantle the current Irish system.

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Michelle Fine (1988) places the basis of her framework of sex education as ‘missing the discourse of desire’ (Cameron-Lewis, 2016). This term explains how desire and pleasure are missing from sex education, especially for young women. Fines’ framework focuses on delivering responsible sex education to young people; highlighting the importance of teaching desire, and young people’s sexual subjectivity (Cameron-Lewis, 2016). Kileys’ (2005), framework argues that sex education needs to include a wider range of topics, to allow young people to flourish and engage in consensual sex. Tolman (2002), argues that if a young woman is unable to view herself as a sexual being, then she will be unable to give ethical consent (Tolman, 2009). Tolman’s (2002) framework for sexuality studies, looks at creating increasing levels of openness around the conversation of sex and dismantling the current sex education, which is important in providing people with the ability to ethically consent to sex. She argues that current systems do not give young people the chance to feel sexually desirable, which causes problems for people in their later relationships (Tolman, 2009). Feminist poststructuralist frameworks of sexuality see sex education as a way to break down the patriarchy and mobilize the ‘rape culture in society (Cameron-Lewis, 2016). They argue that sex education should shift towards issues regarding consent/ negotiations of sexual behaviors, and how to deal with rape (Cameron-Lewis, 2016). Moira Carmody (2005), is another feminist who is interested in post-structuralist views of sex education. This framework is based on anti-rape education. She developed the term ‘ethical erotic (Carmody, 2005), which draws on Foucault’s work on sexuality the meaning of the ‘self’. Carmody places a focus on sex being ethical (Carmody, 2005). This theorist explains that young people need to be taught information and skills to be able to be sexually ethical (Carmody, 2005). Feminist theories do not disagree with education about reproductive or preventative methods for sexually transmitted diseases, but they argue the necessity for sex-positive education topics to be learned by young people (Lenskyj, 1990).


Type of study:

This research question is underpinned by descriptions and analysis of how the sex education system in Ireland is perceived, as well as to question of whether feminist sex-positive education is the solution. This study will be conducted as a Qualitative study. Qualitative research is the most accurate to interpret this type of social phenomenon, which has various taboos and consequences. Qualitative research places a focus on the information being collected, thus will be accurate in finding the specific details and information, which are important in explaining the effects of sex education in Ireland. The aim of this type of research is to ask open-ended questions to participants in order to gain insight into their lived experiences. Qualitative research is the best way to gather an emotional response from participants. In order for the data collected to be unbiased, there needs to be a degree of accountability in which the level of interpretation is not affected by the researchers’ personal reflections, as the researcher, I am embedded with social constraints as well as the respondents. Previous research of sex education has proved the various taboos and stigmas attached to disusing sexual behaviors and health, this might prove difficult in researching people as they may not want to share their own personal experiences.


In order to study the different perceptions of people, in relation to the sex education they received, I will conduct questionnaire-based surveys. These surveys can be distributed on social media; reaching a wide range of people. This allows people to be anonymous in their answers. Anonymity is important especially for a study on sexuality, as a lack of anonymity may skew the results. This form of study is useful as it allows the researcher to distribute the survey to a wide scale of people and it gives the researcher access to information in the most time-efficient way.

Sampling technique:

This research study will conduct a multi-stage sampling on a large sample and then proceed with new samples in succession from those previously selected (Sarantakos, 2005). It is difficult to determine an appropriate sample size for this type of study. There is no way of knowing how long it may take to decode the data to be representative and accurate of the perceptions of people and their experiences of sex education in Irish schools. This method will provide me with a relatively representative sample of data, which will then provide the construction of more effective data choices. Once data is collected, categories will be distinguished based on the type of secondary education institution participants attended. Each category will then we broken down through random selection. I will focus my research on of five students from all girls’ schools, five students from all boys’ schools, and five students from mixed schools in Ireland. This will provide a basis of a study that looks at the different types of education received in different educational institutions, aiming to ask the question if focus on whether feminist theories will better impact these young people in their future sexual lives.


This study will conduct a thematic analysis. Thematic analysis is the process of identifying patterns or themes within a research discourse (Maguire et at., 2017). This approach of analysis is a flexible method, making it advantageous in this type of research in which we are studying a form of education (Maguire et al., 2017). This form of research looks at patterns in the data that are important and aims to explain certain social phenomena and portray the results in an organized way (Maguire et al., 2017). My research report will follow Braun & Clarke’s (2006) 6-step framework. This is the most valid form of analysis in social sciences for this type of qualitative study. Step 1: I need to make sure my questions are relevant and have accurate information in them. This means cross-referencing various sources to ensure that the content is correct. This will allow for the identification of patterns, especially if a large amount of data has been collected. Step 2: Generating data code, which is important in order to answer the research question; how does sex education affect people in their later relationships? Step 3: Braun & Clarke (2006) distinguish between two levels of themes: semantic and latent. They explain semantic themes as the surface meaning of data. This is the exact phrasing used by the participants in the study. In the case of this study, semantic data, will consist of participants’ experiences of sex education in Ireland. The second theme in this report is focusing on interpreting and explaining the experiences of the participants. This type of theme is called latent, it looks beyond what has been said and aims to address the assumptions and ideas of participants. This study will look to feminist theories, as a basis for sex-positive education opportunities. Steps 4 and 5: Review and define themes. The themes described may be split or combined together if the data is too large. There have been various themes outlined in previous research; sex education in school can act as a preventative factor to negative sexual health practices, and lack of openness about sex and sexuality, Step 6: Write up the results. As the researcher, I will take a reflexive position, in order to include my own position as a researcher in my research and to analyze how it could influence my collection of data. Data will be transcribed from the field notes on an ongoing basis, this will be possible through the use of online surveys which provides up-to-date data (Maguire and Delahunt, 2017).

Ethical issues:

There are various ethical concerns in every study. I looked at previous studies on sexual health to expose myself to any possible concerns. Firstly, June and Manuel (2007) conducted research, which concluded that sexual health studies, can cause embarrassment of participants (Shahriari et al., 2018). Sexual issues can be considered a private matter for some people, especially if the results of the study are made public (Shahriari et al., 2018). Secondly, Binik et al. (1999) carried out a study in Canada, researching the ethics of sexual research online (Shahriari et al., 2018). The results show that there were various ethical concerns related to participants’ informed consent, and how long it is ethically correct to store data (Shahriari et al., 2018). Finally, Flicker and Guta (2008) looked at the ethics of parental consent for the participation of adolescents in sexual health studies (Shahriari et al., 2018). The results showed that parental consent was against the principle of the participant’s autonomy (Shahriari et al., 2018). Looking at these previous studies, I think that the most significant ethical concern I will face conducting this research are; protecting the privacy of participants. Being aware of the sensitivity of the topic will vary with; gender, and age. There might be cases of sexual violence that might emerge which could bring back triggering moments for some participants, this is important to remember and consider when collecting data. Finally, religion might affect people’s ability to answer questions for this study.

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Analytical Essay on the Lived Experiences of Those Who Have Received Sex Education. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 29, 2023, from
“Analytical Essay on the Lived Experiences of Those Who Have Received Sex Education.” Edubirdie, 27 Dec. 2022,
Analytical Essay on the Lived Experiences of Those Who Have Received Sex Education. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 May 2023].
Analytical Essay on the Lived Experiences of Those Who Have Received Sex Education [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 27 [cited 2023 May 29]. Available from:
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