Why Sex Ed in secondary schools needs to be less robotic

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In school we learn about menstrual cycles and erections, the human biology and how it all works but we’re not taught about pleasure, lust, emotions, consent or any of the other confusing parts that come with sex and maturing. Sexual education in secondary schools can sometimes feel more like a science lesson, studying the anatomy is important, however understanding the emotional side of things is also important, even more so.Written by Paige Bee

We’re taught about STIs and all the scary parts, but none of the positive parts. We learn about contraception, which is a crucial thing to discuss however we’re not taught about why we may want to have sex for a reason other than pregnancy… for pleasure. It’s almost as if in some schools it’s taboo to let it slip that a massive part of sex, and why a lot of people do it, is for pleasure. So, from the get go of understanding what sex is all about, for a lot of young people there is already an element of guilt and confusion. 

A lot of the time they’re learning two very different, and neither fully correct, interpretations of sex from two different sources. They learn from school it’s a scientific exchange and they learn from porn that it’s an unrealistic, sometimes toxic, illicit thing. A lot of young people resort to learning from pornography, which can lead to detachment between sex and emotions, self-esteem issues, sex by trial and error and many other problems.

It can especially have a big impact on young females, as they’re not learning about pleasure from school and porn usually only depicts sex as something for male satisfaction. This is what often perpetuates the misunderstanding for girls that pleasure isn’t for them and they can’t be liberated from it too. Which is why when schools are teaching about sex, they need to include that it should be positive and pleasurable for everyone involved.

If we’re not talking about pleasure, and how to make sure sexual experiences are safe, comfortable and positive, then what are we teaching them it’s for? If we teach about sex but not why you might want to have sex then we’re leaving that an open area for misconception. If you don’t help someone understand the reasoning behind what they’re feeling, they may try and find that reason elsewhere, perhaps in the wrong places.

Having open conversations about how you should and shouldn’t feel during sex is important, because if we don’t have these conversations sometimes people don’t realise how they’re feeling towards sex or during sex isn’t healthy or how they should be feeling. A lot of young people end up doing things for the wrong reasons, such as someone else’s satisfaction, gratification or because they feel pressure that it’s what they’re ‘supposed to do’. The more open conversation we have the more chance that young people will be able to assess if a situation is healthy or not.

It’s the lack of honest and open education about pleasure in sex that leads to displeasure in sex, it’s also what can affect young people’s outlook on sexuality and relationships and cause hurdles between them discovering and understanding themselves better.

More teaching tactics should be implemented to educate young people to not be ashamed of themselves or their sexualities, because it’s natural. They should be taught why they might be attracted to someone of the same sex, of the opposite sex, of any sex or why they might not be attracted to anyone at all. We’re certainly not educated enough on consent and how important yet blurry those lines can be if you don’t know about boundaries. When people don’t understand consent not only can they cross someone else’s boundaries but they also sometimes don’t know how to establish their own. This can become a very scary and dangerous cycle of not knowing if boundaries are in place or what you even want them to be.

We must teach young people how to know their limits and recognise when they’ve been crossed. It’s important that we make sure they know how to clearly communicate about consent and feel confident enough to do so.

Some parents may worry that teaching teenagers and young adults about the deeper reality of sex and relationships may be advertising it or giving them more reason to want to explore these things. But young and curious people are going to try and discover the things they want to, whether in a safe educational environment or not. So, it’s much better for it to be in the correct setting in which we can make sure they’re learning the things they need to know and that they have the resources available if they want them. 

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Young people need to be taught these things with honesty and no room for judgement to help them make their relationships and sex lives healthier and help them to maintain strong, emotional connections with themselves and others.

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