Sport as a pathway to sexual health education: an exploratory study

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Vlcek, Cristine
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Background: Rooted in origins of eugenics, sexual health education (SHE) originated as social hygiene to culturally maintain and mainstream Christian purity ideology through character-building spaces such as sport, recreation, and physical activity (Ferguson, 1891; Snow, 1916). Aim: This exploratory study sought to understand the ways sport acts as a pathway for sexual health education (SHE) from the perspective of high-performance student-athletes. Methods: Through semi-structured interviews and open-ended questions, nine former and current student-athletes (3 women; 6 men) were recruited to talk about their experiences and knowledge about SHE within a sports context. The analysis of the narratives involved Willig’s 6-step guide to Foucauldian Discourse Analysis (FDA). Discourses were analyzed through a biopsychosocial (BPS) approach, which recognizes the interconnectivity and holistic value of SHE as more than biomedical. Results: Three discursive themes were identified: 1) Biomedical, 2) Win At all Costs Mentality, and 3) Sexual Activity. These were supported by discourses such biological binarism, menstruation, winning at all costs, casual sexual activity, and sexual abuse, some of which aligned with SHE curricula objectives as outlined by the Manitoba and Ontario curriculum. Implications: This research may provide a new lens for sport organizations to assess their current policies which guide (student)athlete development, including mental health and equity, diversity, and inclusion for both sex and gender diverse athletes. This may also provide direction towards the creation of trauma informed prevention in lieu of crisis responses to matters related to sexual health, including sexual violence, consent, power, and sexually transmitted blood borne infections (STBBIs). Keywords: sexual health education (SHE), sport, social hygiene, eugenics, poststructuralism, Foucauldian Discourse Analysis (FDA), biopsychosocial (BPS) approach
Menstruation, Coaching, Education, Policy, Curriculum, History