I recently received an email from change.org – a website that you can make and build a petition on any issue you care about. Change.org has recently been credited with keeping women on bank notes due to a petition from Caroline Criado-Perez. Jane Austen is to appear on a £10 note from 2017. Change.org is an influential website. The email in question included a petition to improve sex education in the UK. This is extremely important, especially in 2013 when young people’s attitudes towards sex and relationships have changed-and the ways of going about these relationships.
Young people are always going to be curious about sex and relationships. That’s a given, and like it or not, they’re going to start having sex at some point too. We can’t stop young people from having sex if it’s safe and enjoyable. I remember when I was sixteen and started having sex with my first serious boyfriend. We discovered that it was amazing. We also made sure we were completely safe. But then one day, my mum found my stash of contraception and she was angry. I didn’t understand why because it was safe and we didn’t do it that often. And we had an argument. It seemed that the only reason she was angry was because I didn’t come to her and tell her. The reason for that was that she reacted the way I thought she might.
That’s what we need to look at. The relationship between parents and teenagers when it comes to sex and relationships. Young people are understandably scared to approach their parents when it comes to sex and relationships. Why would they when they have friends and older brothers and sisters they can approach? They don’t realise that parents are there to help. especially seeing as teenagers are fiercely independent.
So it usually falls to teachers and schools to educate children. We all have cringe worthy experiences of sex education at school. Condoms on bananas, plastic penis models, boys blowing up condoms and throwing them around like balloons, disgusting pictures of pretty bad genital warts and herpes. You’re also shown the grim video of a woman giving birth. And that’s about it.
Currently, the sex education curriculum has not been updated since 2000. As we all know, things have changed drastically since then, from the range of contraception available to the various differences between relationships now and then. One of the biggest differences between 2000 and 2013 is the internet and the growth of internet dating. It wasn’t uncommon when I was growing up to conduct relationships mainly through MSN Messenger and Bebo, but things are different now, everything can be public. We have smartphones now that can document every moment of your life if you want them to.
Easy availability of internet porn, social networking amongst others can often give young people a warped perception of sex. Porn makes girls and boys feel self conscious about their bodies. They feel like they need to perform in certain ways. Girls feel like they need to act like porn stars in order to be liked by boys and boys start to think it’s acceptable to treat girls like porn stars.
In addition, the internet has given rise to the number of children being groomed and exploited by adults. We shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking that this is endemic and that every child who goes on the internet will subsequently be groomed by a man in his mid forties with a comb over. We should however, teach our children to only speak to people they know on the internet and be wary of anyone who seems a bit strange, or asks strange questions. If in doubt, tell your parents.
We also need to teach children about consent. You should only have sex if you want to. With the rape culture that seems to surround young people’s lives, young men have to be taught that rape is not something to be laughed about. It is extremely serious. They should be taught that women are not objects and if a woman is objecting to sex, he should not have sex with her. Young women also have to be enpowered to say no. It’s okay if you don’t want to have sex with someone.
All in all, we need to teach children that sex is a healthy and enjoyable part of adult relationships. For too long children have viewed sex or have been taught that sex is a dirty thing and is something that is only if you want to have children. Sex is great and with the right sex education, young people can make their own decisions and grow up to have a happy and healthy sex life.