Melissa Browning, Ph.D.
Atlanta, Georgia USA

Melissa Browning is a theologian, ethicist, and activist who studies congregational and community-based responses to injustice. Melissa teaches at McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University where she is the Assistant Professor of Contextual Ministry. For the past 17 years Melissa’s study and fieldwork has been tied to East Africa. Her recent book, "Risky Marriage: HIV and Intimate Relationships in Tanzania," builds on a year of fieldwork completed in Mwanza, Tanzania where women were asked to re-imagine Christian marriage as a space of safety and health for women. Melissa is also active in death penalty abolitionist work in Georgia and is an ordained Baptist minister.

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Adolescents and Abstinence Education

By on September 8, 2013

“Acting out Abstinence, Acting out Gender: Adolescent moral agency and abstinence education,” Theology and Sexuality, Vol. 16.2, 2011: 141-159.


Chalkboard writing - Safe sexAbstract

This article explores faith-based, performance-oriented abstinence education through the lens of feminist theology by drawing on fieldwork with an urban, young adult dance and drama team whose mission is to promote abstinence through performances at high schools and church rallies. Through observation of performances and interviews with performers and program leaders, I examine abstinence education by looking at the way gender is performed both on stage and in everyday life. I argue that the performances observed in this setting can provide a space by which to examine the gendered nature of abstinence pledges. I then ask how the gendered nature of abstinence-only education affects limitations of agency as I argue that the gender roles present within faith-based abstinence education programs could be the greatest obstacle in encouraging a delay of sexual debut among adolescents and young adults.

Related Presentations

Acting out Abstinence, Acting out Gender: Limits on adolescent moral agency in abstinence-only education, National Women’s Studies Association, Denver, CO, Nov. 13, 2010.