Sex Ed when I was at school was not very thorough at all. In fact I can’t really remember much more than the basics being taught in science. From memory it was section 6.6 and there was always a lot of talk, and a lot of build up, and then a lot of anti-climax. I learnt some from friends and some from problem pages in magazines like ‘Patches’ and ‘Just Seventeen’, but mostly I learnt from doing. I devised a rating system on a scale of 1-5 to communicate with others ‘the level’ we had ‘gone to.’ Perhaps I was born to be an educator, who knows, but quite quickly girls were asking me what I did and how it felt at each particular level.
One of my school friends found her teenage diary a couple of years ago and we laughed as we read it out. She had referenced me in her account and had recorded my antics, and explanations of them, alongside her own thoughts and goals within this area. I felt quite embarrassed when I was confronted with my teenage self, but her husband thanked me for teaching his wife all she knew about sex and how to please a man! I would like to think that in reality, like me, she learnt more on the job, as I know myself that those early discoveries had a lot of room for growth.
As a teacher, I try to deliver the sort of education I would have liked to have had myself, whilst also being aware that the range of experience in the room is varied. There are some strong views amongst parents about what and how and when their children should be taught about aspects of sex and relationships. I have listened to radio programmes and read things on social media where the views seem extreme and short-sighted, but each is entitled to his or her own view of course. Thankfully, in my country, we have a national curriculum which makes things an awful lot easier.
As with anything, resources are open to interpretation and every teacher will put their own stamp on a lesson. So much of your own personality goes into teaching and like many others, I teach through relationships, so the tone and style and content of my lesson will vary depending on that particular audience. I will say that I am open. I try to be as thorough as I can and encourage pupils to ask questions. This will be done during the lesson for those who are comfortable to ask out loud, but also anonymously at the end of each, for those who are not.
Things have changed recently for the better and the old curriculum we worked from has had a bit of an overhaul. I felt really excited at this as the government have taken on the opinions of young people in terms of what they saw as being the gaps to what was covered previously. There is much more focus on pleasure and body confidence. There is more focus on LGBTQ+ and equality. There are additions to the syllabus in terms of topics like pornography, taboos and stigma. The key emphasis is still on consent and on healthy relationships which focus around open communication, but there is more about masturbation, orgasms and making sex good.
To be honest, I felt that the programme I delivered before was pretty good, but this has opened the door to discuss more openly some of the things that weren’t always covered before. I am sure there will be backlash about some of it, but I think that for the young people it is a really positive move. The advent of the internet means that children and young adults have access to things which are influencing them without them realising it. That is a scary thought, but rather than remove the risk, which is an impossible task, I believe in educating them in how to navigate around the risks more safely.
I am excited to be involved in educating young people about sex and feel proud that I am able to influence them in a positive way about their bodies, and about sex and relationships. It took me a long time to get to where I am now, and to arrive at an understanding of who I was and what I like sexually. I have always been adventurous and liked to explore, but I wasn’t able to accept who I was or what I enjoyed and, to an extent, I felt ashamed. My own education was limited to basics and self-discovery and so I didn’t really have the words to articulate my thoughts and make the relevant connections.
I can’t answer for what others do, but in my classroom I feel that there is good practice (quickly hides under the desk from HMI). I would love to share with you some of the questions I am asked, but what’s said in the room stays in the room, and all of that. At the end of the day, we all need to explore things in our own way and in our own time, so really what you learn in class is only the start. What I hope is that the current generation (or at least 227 of them) get an education which they feel gives them a good start on their journey to discover more about themselves and their sexuality, and that they feel positive about themselves and about the relationships that they have.