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Abstract

School-based sex education (SBSE), an institutional attempt to interrupt and correct the sexual socialization of young people, operates at the levels of structure, interaction, and culture. At the structural level SBSE has been found to endorse a particular set of cultural messages about sex and sexuality that reinforce patterns of inequality. This is often the case regardless of program type (e.g., abstinence versus comprehensive). However, there is little empirical focus on the actual classroom practices and other social interactions that constitute SBSE in the United States. In this paper, I will provide an overview of the field of SBSE research, reading the findings at the interactional level. In particular, I will review findings on curricula, stakeholder perspectives, and effects in a discussion of the importance of both interaction and culture in SBSE practices. Finally, I will use criticisms raised in existing SBSE scholarship to pose opportunities for sociological research into the topic.