Transnational Perspectives on COVID-19's Impact on Youth Sexuality, Risk and Relationships

  • Flicker, Sarah (Primary Chief Investigator (PCI))
  • Fields, Jessica (Chief Investigator (CI))
  • Wilson, Ciann (Chief Investigator (CI))
  • Gilbert, Jen (Chief Investigator (CI))
  • Leahy, Deana (Chief Investigator (CI))
  • Bay-Cheng, Laina (Chief Investigator (CI))
  • Goldstein, Alanna (Associate Investigator (AI))

Project: Research

Project Details

Project Description

COVID-19 has fundamentally altered nearly every aspect of youths’ relational lives; new norms regarding physical and social intimacy and access to public and private spaces affect family, peer, and sexual connections. The challenge of navigating this new terrain coincides with adolescence, a developmental period when choices regarding risk and well-being are already fraught and complicated. Though decisions around how to connect, date, and love continue to be influenced by factors including gender, race, sexual cultures, community, and space, pandemic logics cause a profound shift: behaviors that once sparked alarm are now endorsed as low risk (e.g., sexting); practices that were up for debate are now decidedly offlimits (e.g., sleepovers); and what were idealized as innocuous romantic gestures are now the height of danger (e.g., kissing). Changing policies and regulations (e.g., wearing masks, keeping distance, forming pods) influence sexual and intimate possibilities in new and unanticipated ways. Our multi-method, multidisciplinary, and multi-site research will examine how COVID-19 is redefining risk and re-forming youth
sexuality. Our focus will be Australia, Canada, and the United States, liberal democracies with comparable discourses and debates surrounding youth sexuality, but starkly different experiences of and responses to the pandemic. We will gather qualitative and quantitative data to foreground the perspectives of youth, parents, and health educators as we (1) compare experiences across geographic, temporal, political and social locations and (2) explore changing notions of sexual safety, risk, pleasure, and coercion. COVID-19 has also fundamentally altered the possibilities of social research. We will develop new synchronous and asynchronous participatory research methods that enable collaborative data collection and analysis regarding stigmatized topics to create conversation and community at a time that prohibits physical proximity. We will use results to develop site-specific and transnational briefings, videos, podcasts, and
other resources to help sex educators, parents and youth navigate social norms, health risks, and sexual relationships during (and, eventually, in the wake of) a pandemic. Our international and interdisciplinary team brings together scholars in education, psychology, public health, social work, sociology, and youth studies with expertise in participatory methods, sexuality, and global health research.
Effective start/end date1/11/2130/06/23