Educação: Teoria e Prática (Apr 2014)

Teachers’ perceptions on gender differences in sexuality education in Portuguese schools

  • Teresa Vilaça

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 24, no. 45
pp. 23 – 39


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It is argued that according teachers’ perceptions, boys and girls actively use the material on sexuality education (SE), as well as the aspects of school life, as symbolic resources to construct their gender identity and their power relationships. In this sense, an investigation where a semi-structured interview was applied to a purposeful sample of teachers who were teaching between the 7th and 12th years, and who had already developed projects or activities of SE (N=87) will be presented, to focus on, among other aspects, their perceptions regarding issues related to gender that affect the responses of students in sexuality education, aiming at understanding their perceptions on: i) gender differences in students’ reactions to themes/problems of SE; and ii) the nature of the gender interactions during SE. According to the discourse of most teachers, during SE, boys tried to demonstrate their masculinity by presenting themselves differently to girls and distancing themselves from all matters related to women's sexuality, devaluating and distancing themselves from all that is feminine which sometimes involved belittling and insulting the girls. However, the girls reacted positively because SE maintains and supports their sense of gender identity and gender codes that are prescribed for them by society. Therefore, these results show that it is essential to work in teacher training on the relationship between gender, sexuality and power in order to empower teachers to reflect critically on students' reactions to promote gender equity.