Sexed Up, Clued In?
Why our sex ed needs to catch up to the 21st C!
This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of SpunOut.ie. It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for SpunOut.ie please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sex is not the devil! Ok so now that is cleared up we can say that it is a natural developmental process and not the taboo topic that it is made out to be when talking about youths. Yes, sex education is a controversial issue but it is one that cannot be buried away. Ultimately it provides young people with the information they need to understand their bodies, their sexual behaviours and their sexuality in a positive way.
Enlightening adolescents is the best preventative in tackling teenage pregnancy and STIs first hand. Today there is a growing need within society to teach sex education at a younger age than ever before, as we live within a hyper sexual society. Sex is all around us, from advertisements to music videos to pornography and yet it can be argued that there is little open discussion or information available to youths.
Whether it be Britney Spears writhing around almost naked in a music video, or the top shelf of a magazine stand which features ‘lad’s mags’, the images that bombard us daily look much like soft-core porn did a few decades ago and so with the ever growing sexualisation of society, younger and younger teens are being exposed to sexuality in all its forms, yet sex education has not increased to help adolescents through this maze.
The only real weapon against this bombardment is knowledge. With sexual education comes awareness and in this case the ability to protect oneself and also to protect against the threats of sexual exploitation which are a growing concern. Educating young people about themselves is not only about raising awareness but sending a “message of self-appreciation, self-esteem and highlights the fact that the change they are experiencing or would experience is indeed normal.” (Chidiebere, 2008) And I believe that a focus should be placed on the word NORMAL!!! These changes have been experienced by everyone since the beginning of time so you are not alone.
A global poll by condom maker Durex “shows 55% of Irish 18-year-olds say they will leave secondary school without any formal sex education, while a further 15% say they cannot remember receiving theirs.” (Irish Examiner, 2012) Those figures seemed unrealistic to me at first as I had hoped things had changed from my own experiences with sex education.
Picture the scene from Mean Girls where you are told that if you have sex you will get chlamydia and die! But take out the part of being offered condoms, because heaven forbid we knew contraception existed! It’s no surprise really then, that with sex education in schools being non-existent or selective in what is taught, that both magazines and television were named as main sources for sexual information.
Young people however receive mixed messages about sexuality from these numerous different sources, with the media having a direct effect on adolescent’s behaviours, norms and beliefs. Summed up, hormones are raging, sex is viewed as the forbidden (If Eve didn’t resist the apple in the Garden of Eden knowing the consequences, how are teens meant to resist the allure not knowing what can result from sex?) and no one has a clue what is happening or what the full consequences of sexual behaviour can lead to.
“Learning about sex and relationships is important for young people in order to ensure that they are comfortable with their sexuality, that they possess the skills necessary to negotiate sexual situations and that they are able to avoid the unwanted consequences of sex.” (Burtney 2000). Adolescents need to be taught that sex is normal, healthy and should be enjoyable. (Yes, enjoyable! That element is always somehow forgotten when it comes to sex education, especially when it comes to females. But the male orgasm alone does not sum up sex, so nor should it be the only focus during).
It’s about teaching that there is nothing wrong with wanting to feel sexual pleasure and wanting to seek it out, so long as it is done safely and responsibly. Encouraging abstinence is not a solution nor is it an option, instead we need to promote responsibility and safety surrounding sexual behaviours and sexually related topics.
Real sex education should be about teaching how to make intelligent, safe choices, rather than just stating the choices available. Equip youth so that they are prepared for any sexual situation they find themselves in. The basis of teaching adolescents sex education is to allow them to make both informed and educated decisions about their sexual behaviour.
And as teenagers appear to have become increasingly more liberal about sexuality in recent times it is more important now than ever that they are educated to the hyper sexual standard upon which society spins.
Remember: The age of sexual consent in Ireland is 17. If you're over 16, you can consent to medical treatment including any treatment or tests needed.