UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

'All the feels’ – exploring educators’ embodied experiences of sex education Hare, Kathleen


It is well established that comprehensive sexual health education (SHE) in Canada is inconsistent and reflects a range of content, learning outcomes, and adherences to pedagogical best practices. To better understand why, in this dissertation I examined how SHE is known, lived, and produced through sexual health educators’ bodies, as well as the corresponding implications for pedagogy and practice. Inquiry of this nature has a heightened importance because sex educators remain curiously understudied in Canada, with no other known studies addressing their embodied experiences. I first situated myself in the research project by distilling the theoretical, methodological, and contextual gaps in relevant scholarship. I then created a custom ‘felt-sense’ theoretical lens for interpreting sexual health educators’ phenomenological experiences via arts-based processes. I next employed principles of sensory ethnography as I took part in a community-based sexual health educator training program alongside fellow novice sex educators in Vancouver, Canada. Working with five focal novice educators, I employed a range of qualitative and arts-based methods to contribute a nuanced account of each educator’s embodied experiences of learning to teach SHE, including my own. As part of this, I interrogated the social conditions interconnecting with educators’ embodied conditions to consider ways that the collective (re)production of meanings may counter the varied anti-oppressive aims of SHE. The findings of this study are organized around three primary felt-sense experiences: Interchange, Intensification, and Interruption. Through all three experiences, I found that the educators learn and teach in a context of ever-shifting knowledge, realities, and priorities. Multiple intersubjectivities and ways of being exist alongside each other, coming to the forefront of pedagogical practice as needed and desired. Educators’ selves were in ongoing, sometimes paradoxical, dialogue with situational demands and logistics, as well as with intersubjectivities and memories. Considering the influences of trauma, misogyny and racial hegemony on SHE, educators’ reflexivity and ongoing growth are crucial. Mirroring the educators’ dedication to being multifaceted and inclusive professionals in face of the demanding nature of SHE, I conclude by carving out a space and offering suggestions for how embodied experiences may be helpfully conceptualized and operationalized within future pedagogical practices.

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