The state of sex education in our secondary schools has always been a controversial topic, but with the introduction of sexual health clinics attached to some schools in Britain the issue has become even more hotly disputed.
Kids in Britain today receive seriously mixed messages.
Girls: dress in sexy clothes, wear makeup and talk and think about boys all the time, because your self worth is wrapped up how you look. Sex is no big deal on the telly, and it is how you tell boys you love them.
Boys: being heterosexual is all important (being ‘Gay’ is a slur on your masculinity) so you need to prove your manliness by asserting your heterosexuality at all points.
Girls: it is your responsibility to protect your modesty, if you wear the sexy clothes you see in magazines then you are ‘asking for it’ and boys will think you’re easy. If you do have sex then it’s all your fault, because you failed to protect your chastity and deliberately ‘drew him in’ with your sexy clothes.
Boys: if they dress sexy they want sex, even if they don’t know what it is. When girls say no they really mean yes. You can’t be expected to control your ‘manly’ urges.
Because sex is glamorised, girls dress for it and boys expect it. In order to keep the boyfriends that they need to be accepted among their peer group they will sleep with them, because they’ve been led to believe that this is the normal way to keep a boy interested. However, adults also believe that telling school children all about sex will deprive them of their innocence and make them into mini adults.
The truth as I see it is this, from puberty your body is ready to reproduce. It’s no good telling the menstruating girl’s body or the boy who’s getting frequent hard ons that they’re not ready for sex, because their bodies are telling them something different. Physically they are ready, but mentally they often are not. This is the important distinction. We spend too much time telling them that sex is for grown ups, that it’s fun, but not for you. Of course they want to do it, just like they want to smoke, and drink, and stay out late, and watch scary films, and eat too much junk food. What we need to tell them is the truth, that sex happens, that it has consequences and that it can be a very positive experience or a negative one, depending on the situation. We need to teach them that they should always be responsible for their own actions, boys and girls alike, that no means no and that choosing not to have sex is a valid choice and that choosing to have sex should be an active decision. We need to show them how to avoid being pregnant, how to avoid STDs, but also how to avoid being infertile in the future, what to do if someone pressures you into sex and how to handle adult relationships. Respect, self respect and respect for others and their bodies is what’s important.
In short we should be looking towards Europe, Germany and Holland, where an open and honest attitude to sexuality have led to their young people having sex later and whose teenage pregnancy rates are very low, rather than America, whose emphasis on abstinence only teaching has led to a shockingly high level of underage sex and teenage pregnancy.
I understand that this will necessitate an almost complete change of attitute, but I think it’s a step we have to take if we really want to safeguard our children’s best interests.