Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Celina Su

Subject Categories

Educational Sociology | Family, Life Course, and Society | Gender and Sexuality


Intimate Knowledge, Sexuality, Gender, Plitical Economy, Social Justice, Feminism


This thesis project aims to examine how intimate knowledges[1] are transferred and communicated between generations in Western, liberal societies. By ‘Intimate knowledges’ I mean to encompass diverse knowledge of emotional intelligence, sexual identity, and gender.

Intimate knowledges evolve with human life circle everywhere and at all times, but in Western popular discourse of today, are treated with confusion and repression; they thus emerge as a “loud display of simultaneously silent sexual desire.” (Fine and McClelland, 2006) I explore this tension through a critical, feminist lens that sheds light on the ways in which political economy creates cultural norms that strips parents and educators of their ability to communicate intimate knowledge with their teenage children and students. However, parents are expected to specialize in the latest scientific research on ‘safe’ and ‘healthy’ sexuality.

With the understanding that "individuals makes choices, but institutional patterns shape the alternatives and make one choice more likely than another,” (Epstein, 1988) my analysis assumes that cultural discourse is embedded in our identity in general, and our sexual identity in particular. Furthermore, I argue that, in this political moment in Western societies, capitalism has shaped the ways in which institutions like the family and the education system communicate—or fail to communicate—intimate knowledge.

The main questions I explore in this literature review are:

-How does political economy change the ways we communicate intimate knowledge between the generations?

- How can public policies implement comprehensive sex education programs within an individual based society?

- can the feminist movement overcome the liberal split between opposing sexual violence and the pursuit of sexual freedom?

This study aims to enhance future study of intimate knowledges, and to promote gendered, marginalized and silenced knowledge. By understanding the value and necessity intimate knowledge holds for social, political and personal healing and progress.

[1] “Intimate knowledges” is a phrase coined by Professor Celina Su, Gittell Chair in Urban Studies and Associate Professor of Political Science at the City University of New York, during our advisory conversations.