'When Difference Gets in the Way': Young People, Whiteness and Sexualisation

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    Scholars of young people and sexualisation have noted an omission of studies that attend to race and whiteness. In the main, a white-Anglo middle-class child is placed at the centre of media, policy and academic debates about the effects, production and consumption of sexualised media. In light of this, it is important to ask: how can research in this area disrupt the tendency to place normative white subjects at the centre of debates, and position ‘raced others’ at the sidelines? Drawing on postcolonial and critical race and whiteness theory, this paper presents the findings from a study undertaken in South Australia with young people and young adults from a broad variety of cultural backgrounds. Through a series of focus groups designed to explore participant views of sexualised media, a powerful set of resistant narratives emerged. Firstly, participants discussed how their views on sex and sexuality are often read ‘through difference’. They revealed how ‘difference gets in the way’, frustrating conversations they want to have about sexy media, along with moments when they felt stereo-typed and type-cased. Secondly, by presenting perspectives of sexualised media on their own terms, participant narratives were not constrained or bounded by fixed cultural viewpoints. Through a series of ‘transitional moves’, participants employed notions of freedom, individual choice and rights, expressing an urgent desire to speak ‘outside of difference’.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)593-612
    Number of pages20
    JournalSexuality and Culture
    Issue number2
    Early online date2017
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017


    • Cultural difference
    • Difference
    • Race
    • Sexualisation
    • Whiteness
    • Young people


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