Monday 12 October 2015

Let's Talk Sex Education

Before I go further into this blog post, I just want to make one or two things clear. First, it has been YEARS since I was in secondary school. YEARS! I can barely remember what I was taught, so I might be misremembering those classes. And second, any mistakes or errors made in this post are not the fault of the outside forces/help, but my own.

Ok, now we have that out of the way, let's talk sex education. Now, this subject has been on my mind for a while. Weeks/months, really. I don't know what made me sit down and think about sex ed, but I began to wonder. Wonder how sex education are taught in the UK. I'm not sure why exactly, but it became a germ in my brain. I had to find out more about this subject. Try and understand it, while trying to turn this into an out discussion.

So, I emailed the Department of Education. I went to the website and emailed them, asking questions about sex education. I asked when sex education is taught, how many lessons of sex education is taught and whether sex education includes sex education for same sex couples?

I got a reply back, but it didn't exactly answer the questions in a way I was happy with. While the Department of Education stated that sex education is important that secondary schools MUST teach it (it is compulsory) and teachers themselves decide when their students should be taught sex education.  No answer was given about how many lessons are taught nor is there is sex education for LGBT teens.

But there are problems with this. The first is that that teachers themselves decide when their pupils should be taught. But in most secondary schools, students have several teachers, one per subject. So, which teacher decides that the students in the class is ready for sex ed? And what happens if one teachers feels the class is ready and another disagrees? What happens then?

The second is that if you a gay teen, sex education for same sex couple isn't compulsory, though people would like this change. It depends on the school is question. But if the school decides against this, gay teens have to look elsewhere.

And this is where the problems lies. Sex education is about teaching teens about sex and safe sex in a safe environment. The word here is safe. If students don't feel like that they can be taught sex in a safe way and could open discussion, again in a safe way, teens will look elsewhere and in a world where sex is everywhere, it becomes unfiltered and might be unsuitable for those trying to understand safe sex.

Now, before you guys start going "Are you saying sex education is useless?", I'm not. I think it is hugely important. But, in a world where sex is everywhere - and I mean, EVERYWHERE! - what could sex ed do in the future to reflect the world around us? How can we be more open and discuss sex ed in a way that doesn't make us want to cringe and be all British and prudish?

Like I said earlier on, there is a ton of outside forces talking to us about sex. Sex sells in advertising, hence why we see men and women wearing very little clothing. But sex is in everything - we see sex in soap operas, TV shows, films, radio programmes, web series, advertising, video games. It's not exactly hard to find porn online - a quick Google search and you're away.

But let's look at sex in soap operas. How many soap operas show their characters having sex or one night stands? Quite often. Ok, how many of these are unprotected and led to unwanted pregnancies or STDs? Again, quite often. How many characters, after having a one night stand or leaving a long term relationship, goes to their doctors and ask for an STD test? Er... not many. And if they do, it's only after they are told that they might have an STD? No character, to my knowledge, gets tested because they think it's safe. How many characters in soap operas do we see buy condoms or other safe sex protection?

But we see characters go buy pregnancy tests or have the morning after pill. So, why is this ok, but not characters buying stuff to keep them safe?

While we're talking about soap operas, these and other medias could be seen as putting pressure of both young men and women to, not only be "perfect" but also degrading people in a way that young people could very easily see members of the opposite sex as not people, but as sexual objects.

For example, these two videos from Feminist Frequency show how certain well known video games treat women. Just look at how the Resident Evil treats their lead female characters and outfits that players can unlock.

Young men are being pushed this ideal of what the "perfect" man should be also, though this seems to be far more recent development. An example of this is in popular films and TV shows such as Captain America, Thor, Magic Mike, New Moon, True Blood and X-Men to name a few. 

Because of this, some people would point out that teens developing eating disorders and body dysmorphia have been on the increase. In male teens, this has increased sharply compared to ten years ago. 

If this is the case, why isn't this taught in sex ed classes, where students are told that they don't need to change to fit what the media or outside forces are telling them is "perfect" and "normal". 

And if this is the case, should we bring in another subject that is kinda important to sex education: consent. 

Consent is important in sex. Hugely important. It's important for teens (and adults - because there are some adults out there who seem to forget this fact) that when someone says no, it means no. So, in sex education classes, should consent be taught? 

Like I said earlier on, I am not saying sex education is failing students. It isn't. But sex education in schools needs to reflect the world we are currently living in. Opening up the discussion about sex education to teachers, parents and teens (maybe even doctors and GPs) in a way that makes sense to everyone involved but to show that safety is important. 

I want to stress again that I might be wrong - and if I am, I am sorry for getting information wrong or coming across like someone who doesn't know what they are talking about, but we need to open up the discussion. 

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