Notes: Jonathan Alexander, “Discursive Sexualities: Bridging Sexuality and Literacy Studies” in Literacy, Sexuality, Pedagogy

Alexander, Jonathan. (2008). Discursive sexualities: Bridging sexuality and literacy studies. Literacy, sexuality, pedagogy: Theory and practice for composition studies. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 33-74.


Alexander develops his critical sexual literacy by exploring literature of sex studies, queer theory, and composition studies. Alexander puts these in conversation with each other to develop a pedagogy of sexual literacy, which he then demonstrates through a case study.

Keywords: composition, literacy, literacy studies, LGBTQ, pedagogy, queer rhetorics, queer theory, sexuality, sex studies, writing studies


Bell, David & Jon Binnie. (2000). The sexual citizen: Queer politics and beyond. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

Cameron, Deborah & Don Kulick. (2003). Language and sexuality. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Plummer, Ken. (2003). Intimate citizenship: Private decisions for public dialogues. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Turner, William B. (2000). A genealogy of queer theory. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.


“In this way, then, the movement of queering is more than just resistance, more than just negation; it’s recognizing possibilities that the forces of ‘authorization’ do not expect–it’s potentially taking advantage of the excess signification of language to envision and articulate modes of being, ways of being in the world, that exceed the expectations (and limitations) of authorizing discourse” (p. 47).

“… the cultural divisions through which we know ourselves and communicate intimately about our lives and identities–man/woman, hetero/homo–tell the story of our lives. Learning that story, learning how to communicate those stories and roles and thus articulate alternative life (and possibly collective) narratives of identity, community and agency–these are all part of what queer theory seeks to examine and critique. Queer theory understands that these stories are intimately taken up with issues of gender and sexuality, with the binarisms we construct around gender and sexuality, and it attempts to reveal those binaries for what they are: attempts to foreclose upon alternative narrations of identity and community. In this way, then, our literacies, our ability to imagine and articulate ourselves, is wrapped up in our sense of sexuality and the stories that we individually and collectively tell about it” (p. 48).

“… it [sexual literacy] means coming into an awareness of the norms that figure sex and sexuality in certain prescribed and culturally normative ways” (p. 63).


In what ways might a pedagogy of sexual literacy help create a space that Ahmed (2014) refers to as a “relief space”? By being able to articulate one’s sexual self and their narrative and being aware of culturally prescribed, normative narratives, can we create spaces in which people, particularly gender and sexual minorities, do not have to insist to be?

Are there ways in which the critical sexual literacy that Alexander is developing can provide a pedagogical frame for issues of sexual violence, rape culture, and provide spaces for survivors?

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