Sex education. This phase probably conjures up various emotions and flashbacks. Sex education holds a certain air of taboo, a definite sense of embarrassment and (should) hold a huge amount of importance. Secondary school is, on most levels, pretty horrendous. Add sex ed to the mix of hormones and you are bound to make a class of spotty teenagers go red. However, despite all this ’embarrassment’ (see, I can put I speech marks now) sex ed has a very serious and important role, with what could be a life changing message. This is, of course, if it is done properly.
We had a very enthusiastic teacher for our sex ed class at school and while we thought this was hilarious in that did-she-just-say-that kind of way, and while she was probably the most thorough of the bunch, she and the science teachers who gave us more of an anatomical view, didn’t really, now I come to think of it cover that much. Boys, put the condom on a dummy. Check. Girls, take the pill. Check. (This combo, she called ‘Double Dutch’ – something that still baffles me now.) Make sure you are ready speech. Check. And then, it was pretty much back to personal hygiene ‘lessons’. Sex ed, much like most first sexual experiences, over in 60 seconds.
Recently sex ed has been discussed in the House of Lords, which I am sure got many of them very hot under their Savile Row collars. Surprise, surprise – they voted against making sex education mandatory in primary and secondary school. 209 t0 142 voted against, in fact. Included in this bill was the mandatory inclusion of hetro- and homosexual sex education. Now, like I said before, school is horribly humiliating for many, and queer kids don’t get it any easier. Sure you might get some puerile comments from the back of the class when the teacher starts explaining the ins and outs of anal sex, but I think a lesson’s worth of discomfort is worth it compared to the potential side effects of unprotected sex. Teenage pregnancy is down on last year according to the NHS, but considering we already had a rate that overshadowed the rest of Europe, this in no way means we are tackling the issue as well as we could. HIV/AIDS infections have seen an increase in recent years despite a decline in the last decade. While thorough and inclusive sex education may not have a direct effect on these numbers, they can only help. Knowledge is power, as the saying goes. Considering the fact that homosexual sex is rarely (I could even say barely) covered in your typical sex education lesson, any inclusion could only be of benefit. Addressing homosexuality in sex education and citizenship classes can only help in exposing school children to the world outside their school grounds. For pupils struggling with their sexuality, this could only help in offering recognition and inclusion. For pupils struggling with other people’s sexualities, this could only help in opening their minds.
With David Cameron’s ‘porn filter’ in full operation, blocking safe content across the land, teenagers now have limited access to sex education online. How many teenagers do you know, that would be willing to ask certain ’embarrassing’ questions in class? I mean the pupils who really want the answer, not the pupils looking for a laugh. This block affects all teenagers looking for advice, and there have been reports of this filter blocking advice websites and sites with gay content. While I can see that internet forums and the like can be damaging for an impressionable teenager looking for answers, I believe that blocking on a keyword basis is not the way forward.
In a final piece of news from the Houses of Parliament, certain Conservative backbenchers want to introduce restrictions on HIV+ migrants entering the UK. While only 16 MPs have signed so far, this is an alarming development. Something that only stands to support the vilification and stigmatisation of whose with HIV further.
It’s about time the government took sexual health seriously with a contemporary mindset, instead of the outdated opinions of the House of Lords.