I teach sex education. Actually, I teach sexual health and relationships education and we follow a national programme which meets the relevant outcomes for health and well being in those areas. I have written before about the probable fallout there would be if it was discovered that the teacher was actually a kinky sex blogger, but that really I feel that the experience gained from my extra curricular activities means that I am more knowledgeable than I would be otherwise.
Just because I am an educator doesn’t mean that I always think the right things are on the curriculum. There are various constraints meaning that what you would like to say and what you actually say can vary, and remembering your audience is usually at the heart of that. With young people the audience is not just those sat in front of you, it includes the other people who they interact with too. By enlightening them within what feels like quite a controlled setting, you may also be shouting it out to the other kids on the school bus, whispering into the ear of their younger brother on the way home from school or shocking their parents at the dinner table.
Rest assured what you are supposed to have said and what you actually said will be lost and elaborated somewhere in translation and that is always at the back of my mind. Another issue can be the social and cultural differences that exist within a busy classroom and the huge difference in maturity levels and experience amongst a group of same-aged peers. What is right for one won’t necessarily be right for the next and there is always someone waiting on the end of a telephone to tell you that you have said or done the wrong thing and call you into question.
Having said that, I do believe it is important to make sex less taboo than it has been in the past. It is important to encourage young people to be broad-minded and accept that we are not all the same in that area, as with anything. It is essential that they feel included and that their sexuality is a positive thing. There should be no shame around sex and any education programme has a responsibility to ensure that healthy attitudes are at the core. Our programme focuses on the rights and responsibilities that we have as individuals entering into relationships and consent is always at the heart of that.
Understanding not just the physical but also the emotional side is central as is knowing how to keep yourself safe and healthy. I honestly think that the education that is delivered these days is good. There will always be critics but usually the criticisms don’t come from the young people themselves. It is certainly way more comprehensive than when I was at school and really we had to educate ourselves. The internet has made access to material so much easier for the current generation but this is not without its hazards and many of our young people have unrealistic views, not just of sexual behaviour, but also of what bodies are really like and how they work.
Although parents have a responsibility for sharing in the education of their children, this has to be done in partnership and for the most part, the classroom is an easier environment for teenagers. There is always the fact that we cannot legislate for what parents and carers choose to share or how thoroughly that is done, so I do think that the responsibility falls to schools make sure that a curriculum containing more than just the basics is available for all. The people I engage with through my blog tend to be knowledgeable people with a sex positive approach who, I am sure, would make sure that their children are well equipped for life in that area, but we are definitely in the minority.
It is hard for me to look back on the little that was covered when I was at school and pick on one thing which I think should have been included. Suffice to say that the gaps were huge and the subliminal messages about what was ‘normal’ were damaging. It was a different time and a different age and education has to change in line with society. Although school is still a difficult environment for many LGBTQ young people, I think that the change in approach towards gender and sexuality has to be one of the biggest moves to address some of the most significant gaps in what has been delivered in the past.