Lauren Buchan shares her thoughts on the subject of Sex Ed in primary schools, drawing on some young personal experience
“S0 what happens if a guy does ejaculate inside you?” “Well… Then you’re pregnant.” The previous question was asked by yours truly, at the age of 15, and answered by a friend. Near the end of senior school, still completely naive and unaware of the biological logistics of sex. And no, I didn’t go to a Catholic school either, many people have had the same experience. Or rather, lack of experience. Aside from a single condom lesson (which I refused to touch because it was just weird and slimy) and one lesson in Year Seven on erections, the subject remained a mystery to me up until I read Fifty Shades of Grey. Obviously, I was not stupid enough to think that BDSM constituted normal sex, but the release of such material does reveal that we are living in an age of non-taboo sex.
Sex pervades everything, especially in the media, who are obsessed with prying into and unveiling the private sexual lives of celebrities. Do we really want our children to turn to such material to learn the facts as I did with Fifty Shades?
By law, state secondary schools have to provide education on HIV, AIDs, and other sexually transmitted diseases, and usually favour the menstrual cycle and puberty versus masturbation and pornography. It’s almost laughable: we are taught so much about the body changing during puberty, yet the fact those changes are there to make us ready for sex itself – the climax of puberty (if you will pardon the pun) – is just skimmed over. Similarly, it’s as if sex educators skip straight to STDs to warn us that the outcome of sex is just bad, but miss the fact that unless children know enough about sex and what is safe and unsafe, they are still at risk of contracting them in their ignorance.
At the end of this painful process, in which both children and teachers want to shrivel up and die and the classroom is filled with giggles and laddish comments, very little impression is made – except that sex is embarrassing and no one likes it. Leaving children with a confused
perception of what sex actually is and might mean to them in relationships. It is this taboo environment in schools that is to blame for so much exposure to porn from the age of nine, and the younger age of teenage pregnancy. Educators need to realise that no matter how hard they pretend, sex isn’t hiding anywhere in the real world – it’s proud and on display, wearing crotchless underwear for all to see, throwing out unrealistic ideas into the crowd of ignorant and naive children.
There is the argument that “They are just children! Let them be innocent for a little while longer.” However, being innocent in the 21st Century is more of a hindrance than a help. As much as we would like to cover our children’s eyes and wait for the right moment, we can’t pin down ‘the right moment’ anymore. We don’t choose when our children have sex – that decision remains up to them. And because sex is everywhere we look, children are having sex younger and younger.
The exposure is already there, so even if we choose not to educate young children, they’ll get a very different kind of education elsewhere. The facts will be told the wrong way. After all, sex is pleasure-focused, so suddenly they’ll be rushing into sex at the age of twelve and end up pregnant because nobody told them they shouldn’t.
By ushering sex into a shameful corner in education, sex becomes something that we shouldn’t talk about; and because of this we giggle and squirm during a condom lesson that is actually vital.
However, it may be that society itself is still hankering after the hush-hush days of sex, when it existed only behind closed doors, when porn wasn’t splashed all over the internet, but only in magazines under teenagers’ beds. The older generations we trust to teach us about sex are still quite scared of it, because they are unwilling to face the fact that it is creeping up on us everywhere.
Primary schools have no official obligation to teach sex education in schools, yet what about a moral obligation? Education is about preparing our children for the future, and sex is going to be a huge part of that future, teaching them how to recognise a healthy relationship from a malicious one.
If adults act like children themselves, squirming over the subject and desperately juggling the responsibility of sex education between themselves, then how do we expect children to act? This Victorian attitude towards sex being not seen or heard clashes with our invading sexualised culture, and it’s time that we welcomed the subject with open arms and changed its perception in society.
If we act like it doesn’t exist, we are worsening the already negative image of sex that is displayed in porn – we are suggesting that it isn’t worth talking about. I’m not suggesting that sex is the meaning of life, but it’s pretty up there in importance. Children aren’t just learning about the physicality of sex during sex education, they are being taught about emotional respect for one an-other’s bodies. The subject of sex should be breached and talked about with parents and teachers. If a nine-year-old watches porn then feels like they can’t approach anyone with how it affects them, who knows what damage that could do to their person-al development?
To be open with children about sex is to encourage them to be open with adults too. Children are extremely perceptive – they see more than we think they do, and it’s a slight insult to them to suggest that they cannot handle the big bad world we live in. They’re already seeing and judging it, so why aren’t we using our biggest tool – education – to change that perception into one that better reflects society.
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