How my school sex education left me feeling unsupported

Conor talks about why poor quality sex education leaves young people feeling uninformed and unsupported

Written by Conor Kelly


Growing up I never really thought about what sex meant and most importantly the value of what it means to some people. Some people prefer to have casual sex with people they know, while some want to wait for the right person. No matter how you chose to view sex, I think either one is perfectly normal. I think we need to teach young people that sex is something to be enjoyed and not something that is only used as a way to procreate and have children. We must break the stigma and have more open conversations about how we navigate our sexual encounters.

Sex education in school

I think like most social issues, it starts in early education. My experience with sex education was none existent. My sex ed consisted of a doctor from a Catholic health group coming into my class in 6th class. He spoke for about one hour. He only answered about half of the concerns and questions asked by the boys in my class. It felt really inappropriate for the doctor to be telling us, a group of prepubescent boys, about sex education when it was clear that the doctor was biased and not telling the class the appropriate things we need for life. I even remember that we had to get our parents/guardians to sign a permission slip to attend this class which just seems ridiculous to be honest. I think these classes should be done by an external source such as a professor or a doctor who has extensively studied the subject of sexual health, or a sex therapist who has the tools and knowledge to guide us as young people. The person that should be teaching us about sex should be unbiased and in no way connected to the catholic ethos of the education system.

Asking others for information and advice

It was uncomfortable. We were told what was right and what was wrong. None of what he talked about included consent, mental health, queer sex ed, sexually transmitted infections condoms or dental dams. The experience I had during this hour long class, which I had more than 10 years ago, has affected my understanding of sex and sexual health because I then had to ask adults and friends for information and advice, even though they were not exactly equipped to tell me. But I have no other place to go when I have a problem related to my sexual health due to the lack of education I received throughout primary and secondary school.

What can we do in society to help each other to have more open and honest conversations about sex? I think we need to create an environment where young people feel they can speak freely about sex. It’s important that we avoid shaming people for whatever sexual experience they have had in their lives.

Reducing the stigma by supporting teachers

Even after I left primary school and entered secondary school I didn’t receive any sex education. I felt so nervous asking my school counsellor about sex ed a related issue because I felt it was frowned on by the school and teachers. I think we can support teachers by just being open and stop acting as if asking is wrong. Teachers feel uncomfortable about teaching sex ed because the system has created a stigma were teachers feel stuck because they don’t have the tools to teach sex ed in an inclusive and informative way. I think they’re not equipped to deal with the issues young people face.

You couldn’t turn to anyone in the school for information and advice about sex unless you talked to your friends. If we go to our friends for advice about sex and they don’t know how to answer, they might feel guilty and bad about not being able to help us because they don’t even know. This then continues the cycle of shame where we all feel lost because we don’t know what to do, say or who to talk to about these issues.

We need to teach young people that it’s normal to talk about sex and sexual education. We need to reform the sexual education curriculum in this county because it’s important to empower young people with the information they need to have safe, happy and health sex lives.

Our work is supported by