The Politics of Teenage Sexualities: Social Regulation, Citizenship and the U.S. State

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This study examines the emergence of a now-hegemonic discourse of teenage sexuality, which constructs teenagers' engagement in "sexual activity" as a social problem with and about girls in general and low-income girls of color in particular, and explores how the U.S. state and the community health centers that contract with it regulate the sexual practices, relationships, and identities of teenagers in relation to these and related understandings. My analysis draws on feminist and queer theories of sexuality, gender, the state, social regulation, and sexual citizenship and emphasizes how intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, and age are explicitly and implicitly articulated through dynamics of regulation prior to state intervention at the federal level; the federal policymaking process; and the discourses and practices of service providers working in two community health centers that provide health care and social services to a predominantly low-income Latina/o clientele in Washington, DC. I argue that the U.S. state and community health centers comprise important sites through which inequalities of gender, race, class, sexuality, and age are articulated and teenage sexual citizenship is produced. As such, this study is located at the intersection of political sociology and gender and sexuality studies, and makes contributions to the sociological and interdisciplinary literatures on intersectionality, welfare states, social regulation, sexual citizenship, and the social construction of adolescence.