Why do we shy away from talking about something so natural and so very very necessary?
Why is Sex Education Important? Sex is such an intimate act, it brings up so many different emotions, sometimes insecurities, other times feelings of pure euphoria. It’s messy, it’s not always amazing, it’s real, it’s raw, it’s sex! And with sex comes so much more: sexual health, sexual wellbeing, sexual relationships, sexual abuse, harassment, sexual behaviour, preferences, and a whole host of topics that more often than not, people want to talk about.
So let’s talk about sex education. Openly. Proudly. Loudly. And here’s why:
Schools teach young people about the iron age, the solar system, gravity, bumblebees, so why is it taboo to learn about our own bodies? Our own sexual and reproductive health. Imagine a world where it was perfectly normal to discuss your bodies from an early age. Imagine a world where sex education in schools was just another subject that fell into your daily schedule with the social aspects and taboo that accompany it. Imagine a world where children didn’t descend into fits of giggles at the mere mention of the word ‘penis’ or ‘vagina’ or ‘orgasm’. Imagine that for a second. What if we made chat about sex and sexual health education as normal as chats about pluto and subtraction and addition?
Did you know you can find pornographic images on the world wide web that isn't just limited to porn sites? Social media and online porn are exposing teenagers and even younger-aged children to so much more than we realise. What they see as real life is more often than not, a totally wrong perception of what happens during sex. Many naively believe that they'll find a comprehensive sex education online.
Imagine if we all grew up thinking that we had to fit in as much girth as Debbie who at some point did Dallas (remember that film?)? What it creates is such an unrealistic view of sex and how teenagers are supposed to ‘perform’. The sexually active have no grasp of sexual activity and the 'norm' around it. Their sexual development becomes fast-tracked in one sense viewing the images and videos that they do; but so 'behind' in another sense as with the viewing of the content doesn't come the education, the understanding, and the open discussion.
The teenagers of today are on a different level in terms of their sexual maturity. But, their emotional and mental maturity are falling way behind this. It is this imbalance that highlights the necessity to educate children from as early an age as possible. What they see on social media can then be processed with emotional intelligence not from a position of ignorance, miseducation, or fear.
Sex is glorified on social media but where is the education? Where is the information about sexually transmitted infections? What to do with an unintended pregnancy? This may sound extreme but faced with an unplanned pregnancy and a lack of knowledge where do they then turn? Adolescent health and teaching children all about sex and everything to do with sex will equip children with vital tools. Their behavioural expectations will then align with what they are seeing. Their own wellbeing becomes the central cog as the sexual wheels begin to turn, the solid foundation of their sexual journey.
For those still questioning why sex education is important, find us a teenager that doesn’t want to talk about sex! Their bodies are changing, they begin to feel attraction towards other people, chemicals are sending signals from the brain never experienced before. They need a safe space to talk about all these changes and feelings.
As with anything in life, equip yourself with knowledge and you're more likely to make safer, more informed choices which in turn lead to healthier outcomes. If the outcome is to protect against unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, and sexually transmitted infections then you need to know how to avoid them. If you're sexually active and want to just double check your sexual health is in tip-top shape then you need to know-how. Platforms such as iPlaySafe seek to provide this knowledge. A platform that informs, that opens up discussions, that makes you think about safe sex, your own sexual health, the rhetoric around sex, the topics that should be talked about but aren't.
Teach children the facts and they’ll grow up with the knowledge and power to make their own informed decisions. There's nothing simple about teaching kids about sex. It's a job not for the faint-hearted. Research has proved time and time again that abstinence-only programs just don't work. These programs aim to deny children the chance to learn. If abstinence is being presented as the only option, what could be other 'acceptable' options to abstinence then become 'hushed'. As with anything in society, once it's 'hushed' it becomes a dangerous web of silence with a shameful stigma attached to it.
Just because you teach about sex it doesn't mean everyone is going to rush out and have it. Quite the opposite. Providing free condoms doesn't mean they're all about to get used. Quite the opposite. Yes, they'll get used but realistically, they'll get used by the kids who would have been having sex anyway. And at least now they're safe.
In providing condoms from a teen's first sexual interaction you are in fact helping them establish a habit. Wearing a condom becomes a habit. And a healthy one at that.
You might not want to believe it, you might want them to hold off, perhaps they're under the legal age for sex but let's be honest about this, sex happens. And for teens, especially in this current climate of sexual fluidity, it's fairly common. So don't go into denial about it, don't bury your head, and instead, deal with it. Good communication is the key to all successful relationships in life. A teen's relationship with sex is established and grounded through good communication.
As a parent or a teacher, you have a very privileged position of being able to teach a child/teen about standards for moral behaviour. Don't abuse that privilege by ignoring it or shying away from it. It's an honour as with any part of parenting or teaching to equip children with vital life skills.
Teenagers (and children) are growing up in a society so different from their parents and grandparents. Sex education is such a vital life tool, a life knowledge, a life foundation on which to base experiences. It spans not just the biological side of sex but the psychological side, the societal side, the identification side, the power dynamics side, the euphoric side of orgasms and pleasure, the negative side of sexual abuse and harassment. It covers an understanding that it's fine to say no and when to say no, it covers that it's fine to say yes and when to say yes.
It's such a huge misconception that sex ed just covers sex. As a society, it is our responsibility to equip young people with the knowledge to protect themselves both physically and mentally. We need to move beyond the taboos of discussing sex and acknowledge its importance. To deny young people the chance to learn would be to deny them a right to protect themselves.
Let’s get talking. Smash the taboos. Open the dialogue.
Here are just a few topics that we should all be talking about.
Reproduction / puberty / sexual orientation / gender identity / communication / decision-making / families / romantic relationships / dating / abstinence / contraception / STIs / pregnancy / sexuality in the media / gender roles / body part names / periods / masturbation /gender based violence / hiv prevention / same sex relationships / sexual exploitation / threesomes / gender equality / sexually transmitted diseases / chlamydia / gonorrhoea / trichomoniasis / syphilis / HIV / AIDS / herpes / hepatitis b /