Education Issue 16

Sex Education

Back in February, Youtuber Zoella found herself in the news when the AQA exam board decided to stop linking to her content for a GCSE media studies course. They based their decision due to the ‘adult-focused subjects that her site discusses such as sex toys and masturbation. 

The topic has sparked much debate over how young a woman should be, before learning about sexuality, enjoying sex, masturbation, pleasure and more in the curriculum other than just the biology of a woman’s body. And it also led to many women coming forward to discuss the lack of a decent sex education when they were at school in their teens. 

Sex education may have come a long way since the ‘putting a condom on a banana’ days but many feel it is still lacking when it comes to young women learning about their bodies and the pleasure of sex rather than just the consequences of having sex. 

What is covered in the current curriculum?

“The Department for Education is introducing compulsory Relationships Education for primary pupils and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) for secondary pupils from September 2020. Also, from September 2020 it will be compulsory for all schools to teach Health Education.” – gov.uk

As well as information about the new curriculum for RSE, the website advises on whether a primary school should choose to teach sex education, saying “Many primary schools choose to teach sex education (which goes beyond the existing national curriculum for science), and we recommend that they do so, tailored to the age, physical and emotional maturity of their pupils. If you continue to have concerns, you have an automatic right to withdraw your child from these sex education lessons.”

As well as this, the topic of LGBTQ+ is raised, which the website says “Pupils should be taught about the society in which they are growing up. These subjects are designed to foster respect for others and for difference, and educate pupils about healthy relationships. Primary schools are strongly encouraged and enabled to cover LGBT content when teaching about different types of families. Secondary schools should cover LGBT content in their RSE teaching. RSE should meet the needs of all pupils, whatever their developing sexuality or identity – this should include age-appropriate teaching about different types of relationships in the context of the law.”

Is this a step in the right direction? Time will tell…

Advocates for Youth say: “As they grow up, young people face important decisions about relationships, sexuality, and sexual behaviour. The decisions they make can impact their health and well-being for the rest of their lives. Young people have the right to lead healthy lives, and society has the responsibility to prepare youth by providing them with comprehensive sexual health education that gives them the tools they need to make healthy decisions. But it is not enough for programs to include discussions of abstinence and contraception to help young people avoid unintended pregnancy or disease. Comprehensive sexual health education must do more.”

When should girls learn about their sexualities? 

How much of the responsibility is on parents versus a school to educate young people especially young women about sexuality, their bodies and pleasure? We learn about the biology of a woman’s body in science, the reproductive system, how babies are made and more. But when is it appropriate and at what point are young people being taught about consent, healthy relationships and pleasurable sex. And should this come from parents or teachers?

Oftentimes, it is thought that the subject of sex and sexuality should begin at home with the parents. Beginning a conversation about sexuality early and continuing it as the child grows is a good strategy, which means that by the time the child reaches adolescence it isn’t a huge subject that needs to be broached out of the blue. 

However, not all parents feel as though they’re able to have this type of conversation with their child – no matter what age. And this can result in teens who have never learned about when they will begin puberty, haven’t openly discussed menstruation and certainly haven’t discussed sex. A dangerous thing for a young adult who is exploring relationships, sexuality and learning about themselves. Not being armed with the right information about the intricacies and complexities of sexual relationships and sexual pleasure, can cause complications down the road. 

What conversations are still deemed taboo?

Whilst watching most movies or TV shows you’d be forgiven for thinking that we aren’t a prudish society. However, whilst watching the likes of 50 shades of grey or Bridgerton you’d be surprised how much information is lacking. Where are the bodily fluids? The fumbling whilst putting a condom on? The examples of consent? Often sex scenes on TV lack the build-up of foreplay and ignore the female’s pleasure oftentimes putting the males first. 

So, what TV programmes are showing women what sex can look like?

For girls, in particular, Sex Education has been a brilliant series for shedding a light on self-pleasure and sexuality. The character Aimee Gibbs in particular is a breakthrough character for women everywhere. The actress that plays her said in an interview with Teen Vogue “We’ve all been through that phase when we were younger, and some women never come out of it, which is the mindset of, ‘This is for the guy, sex is for the man.’ And at school, guys are seeking pleasure and girls are seeking validation a lot of the time. Like, ‘I’ll have sex with this person because it will validate me,’ rather than, ‘I want to have sex with that person because I’m going enjoy it and it’s going to be great.’”

She goes on to say: “And the female orgasm is basically a myth while you’re at school, it’s all about the boy. I think debunking some of those myths about if a boy plugs away, a girl’s going to have a great time, but no, girls need to be like, ‘No, this is what I want.’ So I’m really happy that that’s in the show.”

Another TV show that broke the taboo subject of sex always having to be ‘sexy’ was Girls written and starred in by Lena Dunham. Huffington Post said: “The series has been credited with providing a far more real depiction of the sex lives of young women that we’ve been used to seeing on the small screen, something Lena says has been a priority for her since the beginning.”

Lena herself said: “When we show sex, the sex is going to feel real. I was sick of seeing women having sex with their bras on, I was sick of seeing women enjoying sex which didn’t look as though it was enjoyable.” 

In Summary

It’s great that the subject of sex education is being discussed and that changes are being implemented in the curriculum. Time will tell whether it’s beneficial in teaching the next generation… but whether it is solely on teachers and educators to teach is another question altogether.

The information and support is there for young people to find online and to learn from, as well as for parents to learn how to discuss and broach the subject with younger children. The responsibility it seems needs to be shared to make sure that all of the important pointers are covered. 

Useful Links

NSPCC

It’s a Sin

The Green Party

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