Meanings of Sexual Maturity for Young Australian Women and Men

Anita Harris

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Other


The ways in which young women and young men experience processes of adolescence as gendered is the focus of this article. The changes and developments that are associated with growing up are often taken to be natural and universal. However, the key tasks of adolescence, in particular achieving sexual maturity, are deeply gendered and gendering experiences. Models of maturity that are presented to young people are ones that link successful adulthood to the accomplishment of dominant forms of masculinity and femininity. The idea of adolescence as a period of fixed, universal and natural stages of development to adulthood camouflages the requirements for young people to exhibit appropriate genderedness in their sexual maturation. The article draws on a study of young Australian people from a variety of cultural and class backgrounds. It considers the ways sexual maturity is structured around the institution of heterosexuality, in particular in relation to the themes of dependence/independence, objectification, passivity/activity and responsibility. It also examines the ways young people try to work against these constructions, through the example of drama.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationYouth in Everyday Life Contexts
EditorsVesa Puuronen
Place of PublicationJoensuu Finland
PublisherJoensuu University Press
Pages123 - 137
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)9517087381
Publication statusPublished - 1999

Cite this