Sex Education Needs to be More in Touch

January 24, 2012

Words by: Sian McGee

Sex, the first time is painful. They tell you that at school but fail to mention that it is also embarrassing, awkward and jarred. We learn more about the realities of sex outside the classroom growing up and often are young enough to believe horror stories and rumours. Adults appear to be too embarrassed to give young people comprehensive sex education at school and after hearing about the Conservative MP, Nadine Dorries’ bill I doubt the quality of sex education in British schools is going to improve.

Back in May 2011, Ms Dorries presented a bill to Parliament. In it she argues for the teaching of abstinence in schools as part of compulsory sex education. Ms Dorries’ bill focuses on teaching abstinence to girls, presuming the pressure for sex comes from boys alone. “We need to let young girls know that to say no to sex when you are under pressure is a cool thing to do.” I find this deeply problematic and am not the only one. Labour MP Chris Bryant said that the bill was “the daftest piece of legislation I have seen brought forward.” Daft may be one way of describing it but dangerous is another. When it comes to sex education in the UK there is certainly room for a lot of improvement but adopting teaching based on presumptions of gender roles cannot be the way forward. What is more, although teaching young people to wait to have sex and respect each other is admirable, abstinence teaching in the USA has failed to decrease rates of teenage pregnancy, which is strangely an argument used for the introduction of this bill by Dorries.

On her blogspot, Dorries says this in defense of her bill, “I want to place an emphasis on girls. I do. It’s girls who get pregnant, girls who lose their education, girls who are left to bring up a child on benefits, girls who reach old age in poverty, girls who are subjected to a string of guesting fathers as they throw in the towel in a life of welfare misery, girls who seek abortion, girls who suffer the consequences of abortion, girls who are subjected to the increased medical risks of giving birth at a young age, girls who have little control over condom use, girls who are pressurised, girls who are targeted by lad mag marketing, it’s seven year old girls Primark made alluring padded bikinis for, girls who are targeted by paedophiles…” Dorries fails to point out that it is also boys who have little control over condom use due to poor sex education, boys who are targeted by paedophiles, it is also boys who feel peer pressure from other boys and lads mags to conform, it is also boys who are pressurised and it is also boys who are targeted by sexist clothing forcing them into gender stereotyped.

It appears yet again that those responsible for educating the young are dangerously misinformed about the realities of young peoples’ attitudes to sex and until they engage and sideline the embarrassment that comes from talking about it, they never will understand and problems will not be addressed. At 10.30am on January 20th 2012, there is a protest organised for outside of the Houses of Parliament when Ms Dorries’ bill is set for a second reading. I urge you all to be there to show Ms Dorries that out of touch bills only fuel problems, they don’t solve them.


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