chapter  2
23 Pages

Over-Sexed and Under Surveillance: Adolescent Sexualities, Cultural Anxieties, and Thick Desire


In this chapter, we extend our earlier work on sexuality education in U.S. public schools in which we forwarded a theory of adolescent sexuality, thick desire (Fine & McClelland, 2006). We chose the metaphor of thickness in order to evoke the multi-faceted ‘nature’ of sexual desire and to underline our reading of desire as a product of intimate and social negotiations. In contrast to contemporary theories that frame sexual desire as emerging solely from individual motivation, behaviour, or fantasy (within the person or the couple; see Basson 2000, 2001; Brotto, Bitzer, Laan, Leiblum, & Luria, 2010; Carvalho & Nobre, 2010; cf., Kaschak & Tiefer, 2001), thick desire invites a theoretical and methodological intervention. It reminds us that bodies adhere with connective tissue to economic, political, historic, and psychological landscapes-meaning that desire never stands on its own. It is a concept we placed into feminist discourse to signal how bodies are linked to social arrangements, politics, yearnings, deprivations, and betrayals in public settings and that these connections-both supportive and restrictive-inform how young people learn to develop a sense of desire. Thick desire encourages researchers and policy makers alike to situate desire as an ‘entry point’ (McClelland & Frost, 2014), a window through which we might begin to notice the extensive web of factors in a person’s life, family, community, and nation when making evaluations and recommendations about how individuals can and should learn about, practice, and engage with sexuality.