More than “Just Learning About the Organs”: Embodied Story Telling as a Basis for Learning About Sex and Relationships

  • Kate Senior
  • Richard Chenhall


Ethnographic approaches offer deep insights into the lives of people, and as anthropologists are our preferred approaches for our work with young people. Extended participant observation is, however, not possible in all research settings and other approaches are needed which still aim to capture the ideas and voices of young people. This chapter explores two youth-friendly methods for exploring sexuality, relationships and sexual health with young people. We document the development of a scenario-based body-mapping exercise and a participatory community-mapping exercise to form the basis of embodied story telling.


Indigenous young people Sexual health Body mapping Participatory community mapping Ethnography 


  1. Allen, L. (2001). Young people and sexuality education: Rethinking key debates. London: Palgrave McMillan.Google Scholar
  2. Atkinson, P. (2015). For ethnography. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  3. Brumbach, B. H., Figueredo, J., & Ellis, B. J. (2009). Effects of harsh and unpredictable environments in adolescence on development of life history strategies: A longitudinal test of an evolutionary model. Human Nature, 20, 25–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chang, H. (2008). Autoethnography as method. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.Google Scholar
  5. Chenhall, R, Davison, B, Fitz, J, Pearse, J and Senior, K. (2013). ‘Engaging youth in sexual health research: refining a youth friendly method in the Northern Territory of Australia’, Visual Anthropology Review, 29 (2): 123-132.Google Scholar
  6. Dennis, S. F., Gaulcher, S., Carpiano, R. M., & Brown, D. (2009). Participatory photo mapping (PPM): Exploring an integrated method for health and place research with young people. Health and Place, 15, 466–473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Fetterman, D. M. (2010). Ethnography, step by step (Applied social science research methods 3rd ed., Vol. 17). Los Angeles: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  8. Fisher, J. D., & Fisher, W. A. (1996). The information-motivation behavioral skills model of AIDS risk behavior change: Empirical support and application. In S. Oskamp & S. C. Thompson (Eds.), Understanding and preventing AIDS risk behaviour: Safer sex and drug use (pp. 80–89). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  9. Hammer, J. D., Fisher, J. D., Fitzgerald, P., & Fisher, W. A. (1996). When tow heads aren’t better than one: AIDS behavior risk in college-aged couples. Journal of Applied Psychology, 26, 375–397.Google Scholar
  10. Helmer, J., Senior, K., Davison, B., & Vodic, A. (2015). Improving sexual health for young people: Making sexuality education a priority. Sex Education, 15(2), 158–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Jackson, S. M., & Cram, F. (2003). Disrupting the sexual double standard: Young women’s talk about heterosexuality. British Journal of Social Psychology, 42, 113–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. MacPhail, C., & Campbell, C. (2011). I think condoms are good, but aai I hate those things: Condom use among adolescents and young people in a southern African township. Social Science and Medicine, 52(11), 1613–1627.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. McMullen, S. (2015). Growing up fast: The sexual and reproductive health of young women in a remote Aboriginal community. Ph.D. thesis, Charles Darwin University, Darwin.Google Scholar
  14. Mitchell, A. (2014). Sex education for young people. In M. Temple Smith (Ed.), Sexual health: A multidisciplinary approach (pp. 351–364). Melbourne: IP Communications.Google Scholar
  15. Power, R., Langhaugh, L., & Cowan, J. (2007). But there are no snakes in the wood: Risk mapping as an outcomes measure in evaluating complex interventions. Sexually Transmitted Infections, 85, 232–236.Google Scholar
  16. Senior, K and Chenhall, R. (2008). ‘Walkin’ about at night: the background to teenage pregnancy in a remote Aboriginal community’, Journal of Youth Studies, 11(3): 269-281.Google Scholar
  17. Senior, K and Chenhall, R. (2013). Health beliefs and behaviour: the practicalities of looking after yourself in an Australian Aboriginal community, Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 27(2): 155-174.Google Scholar
  18. Senior, K, Helmer, J, Chenhall, R and Burbank, V. (2014). “Young clean and safe?” young people’s perception of risk from sexually transmitted infection in regional, rural and remote Australia, Culture Health and Sexuality, 16(4): 453-466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Simpson, J. A., Griskevicus, V., I-Chun Kuo, S., Sung, S., & Collins, W. A. (2012). Evolution, stress and sensitive periods: The influence of unpredictability in early versus late childhood on sex and risky behavior. Developmental Psychology, 48(3), 674–686.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Solomon, J. (2007). Living with X: A body mapping journey in the time of HIV/AIDS, facilitator’s guide. Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative, REPSSI.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Open Access This chapter is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License, which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kate Senior
    • 1
  • Richard Chenhall
    • 2
  1. 1.Faculty of Social Sciences, School of Health and SocietyUniversity of WollongongWollongongAustralia
  2. 2.Melbourne School of Population and Global HealthUniversity of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia

Personalised recommendations