‘Pleasure Is Not in the Science Programme!’: When Anthropology Engages with Sex Education for Teenagers


  • Nicoletta Landi




public health, sexuality, teenagers


In this article, I analyse how public policies concerning teenage sexual health become educative practices in the Italian public healthcare system. In particular, I investigate sex education addressed to (pre)adolescents starting from an action-research I have been carrying out within a free-access counselling centre for teenagers named Spazio Giovani in Bologna. I focus on how international and national dictates, together with local implementations, define and manage teenagers’ sexual health. Sex education involves various stakeholders such as policy makers, health professionals, teachers, families, and teenagers. They each perform different socio-political visions concerning sex, sexuality, health, and adolescence. Sex education can be either normative or used to empower teenagers’ access to information about sexual and relational wellbeing. Anthropology can highlight the complexity and critical aspects of teenage sexual promotion and, at the same time, suggest inclusive and plural ways to implement comprehensive sexuality education. In this frame, engagement – both as a theoretical approach and an operative vocation – can constitute a tool to put into practice anthropology as public and applied knowledge.