Open call for YOUNG Special Issue: Pleasures, practices, troubles and debates on young people’s sexualities and gender identities in the 21st century

Special Issue Editors: Ann-Karina Henriksen, Päivi Honkatukia, Hannah King and Marja Peltola


Sexualities are among the most intimate and private spheres of life, yet the 21st century has witnessed an unprecedented politization of intimate and sexual relations. During recent years, the globally viral #MeToo movement, for instance, has intensified the discussion on the pervasive nature of gendered sexual harassment and abuse, highlighting the claims for sexual and bodily integrity as a basic human right. Over decades, legislative reforms, international treaties, awareness campaigns and prevention programmes have been implemented to advance equality, well-being and secure sexual and bodily integrity for all, including the young. While positive steps may be recognised, the development is far from self-evident and straightforward; instead, sexual health (e.g. right to abortion), sex education, trans rights and the position of sexual minorities, among other issues, remain fields of ongoing struggle in most if not all parts of the world.

Sexualities have always been a matter of public concern and social control, and continue to be a source of heated public debates. Shifting and emotionally laden debates on sexualities concern young generations in multiple ways. Issues concerning sexual identities are lived in young people’s everyday lives, and young people are often active agents e.g. in promoting rights of sexual and gender minorities. Digital technology and social media platforms have become major sites of sexual expression, claims making as well as of forming and maintaining sexual relations among young people. Sexual intimacies can also be seen as increasingly commodified, which has multifaceted impact on how sexuality is expressed and experienced by young people.  In public debates, young people’s agency and their varied everyday experiences and struggles over legitimate sexualities are not always recognised or taken into account – rather, discussion and the related moral panics position them in rather homogenising ways as objects of concern, control and intervention. Their gender, ‘race’, age and class often define whether they are represented as innocent victims or deviant perpetrators.

For this special issue, we invite papers analysing various dimensions of youthful sexuality. How do contemporary youth ‘do’ sexual intimacies in the contemporary contested landscape? How are their bodies, identities, emotions, relationships, interactions and communities involved in this? What kind of identities, forms of intimate citizenship, pleasures, troubles and other affective elements emerge in young people’s sexual engagements and relations? How are these experiences socially and societally embedded?  In what ways do inequalities related e.g. to gender/gender identity, social class, ‘race’, age, sexual orientation or dis/ability shape young people’s sexual engagements and their meanings?

By exploring these questions this special issue challenges adult-centrism in how sexuality is understood in public discussion and research and acknowledges the multifaceted ways through which young people actively make sense of sexuality and are agents in this field, albeit their agency is defined and constrained by their social environments.

Explorations of sexualities in young people’s lives in the 21st century can be
related, but is not limited to the following themes:

  • Intersectional dimensions of sexualities related e.g. to gender, ethnicity/race, abilities, age, class
  • Place, space and belonging
  • Mediatized and digitalized environments, including social media and online communities
  • Biography and identity
  • Health and well-being
  • Sexuality as a part of social relationships, friendships, family and intergenerational support and challenges
  • Agency, citizenship, activism
  • Rights and positions of sexual minorities
  • Inequality and discrimination
  • Sexual harassment and violence
  • Sugar dating and other forms of transactional sex
  • Risk, worry, moral panic, labelling and social control
  • Governance, legislation and official control of youthful sexualities
  • Methodologies

We welcome both theoretical and empirical articles with a word limit of 5000-8000 words (including bibliography). Authors must follow YOUNG’s submission guideline:

Deadline: 1st of September 2022. No papers will be considered for the Special Issue after the  closing date, but papers with a similar theme can always be submitted for YOUNG’s general  submission process. For the special issue, papers must be submitted through ScholarOne and marked SEXUALITIES. The link to submission is

All papers are subject to anonymous review and will be published early online.
Authors must follow YOUNG’s submission guideline: