Imagining Desires

Exploring Visual Culture and Sexuality Education

Imagining Desires was a scientific-artistic research project in which secondary school students, teachers (in training), scientists, sexuality education professionals and artists come together to research questions of sexuality, visual culture and education.

Imagining Desires asked in what ways pictures with sexual connotation come to the attention of students and teachers in training in their day-to-day lives, and in what ways they notice them, i.e. which images inspire, upset, attract, repel, alienate and make the viewer curious. It is, after all, through pictures that notions about sexual concepts, lust, desire, intimacy and body become emergent, formed, visualized, normed, irritated etc. The research team of Imagining Desires also seeks to explore which pictures are used in pedagogical contexts when sexuality, body and intimate relationships are discussed. The project analyzes and critiques the pictures collected from day-to-day life and pedagogy with regard to their visual strategies and their offer for identification: Who is (and is not) depicted? What notions of sexually active persons, desirable bodies, intimate relationships, pleasurable sex and problematic behaviors are transported?

Imagining Desires worked off the assumption that young people are both capable of acting as well as in need of adults who support them and protect them from discrimination and violence. From this vantage point, Imagining Desires developed a participatory research design for students to participate as equally as possible, and to approach and methodically inquire about their questions of relevance to themselves together with teachers in trainings, (sex)educators, scientists and artists. The project combined approaches from cultural studies and educational science as well as the arts and refers to knowledge from gender, queer and postcolonial studies.

Media and scientific discourses about sexuality and appropriate images for children and teenagers currently focus largely on issues such as sexting or pornography. On the back of controversially debated questions of school sex education, the project Imagining Desires seeked to provide research and education about the scientific, pedagogical and peer-cultural discussion around sexuality and images – to analyze them, to differentiate them and to inspire others. The research team developed materials for children and teenagers, for sex education and art education, for schools and teacher education. The aim was to enable learning about sexuality as well as critical visual literacy and to foster artistic-creative and linguistic expression.

This project has been completed.