RIGHT CLASS, settle down… Lets talk about sex. More specifically, Sex Education. The title of this article got your attention didn’t it? Sex education in schools these days is nothing like it was when I was of pubescent age.
My middle child, Lilly is in year 7 of secondary school and the time has come for ‘the talk’ at school. To be more precise, it is the second phase of ‘the talk’, as she had one in year 6 of primary school and this follows on from that. I still find this bizarre, but times change. My oldest daughter, Chloe, had ‘the talk’ a few years back and didn’t seem too phased by it. Lilly on the other hand gets in fits of giggles when any form of sexual health conversation arises. I have 3 girls in the house, so a certain topic arises each month.
Can I be excused
So Lilly comes home from school, with a letter in her hand informing parents that they will be holding a Relationships & Sex Education seminar. She hands it to us and then asks if she can be excused from it. She states that she wont be able to control her laughing. I must admit the giggles she gets are quite infectious, but the seriousness of it is we’re not too sure if she is just slightly immature or just finds the subject uncomfortable and uses the giggles as a coping mechanism.
Relationships and Sex Education
Those of you reading this, who left school before the year 2000 are probably thinking “what on earth is a Relationships and Sex Education Seminar”. You’d be right to, because Natalie and I thought the same thing.
Relationship Education (RE) and Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) lessons had a lot of press last year, particularly due to the legislation on a new RE/RSE curriculum being passed in March 2019. The legislation requires schools to teach RE/RSE from 2020. It created a lot of ambiguity with parents, guardians and carers. The new guidelines say that parents cannot withdraw their child from RE in primary school (but it is possible to withdraw them from the sex education element in secondary school up until they reach 15).
It’s all a bit odd if you ask me, but I’m not going to waffle on about my views on the whole thing. By the way, for the ‘old skoolers’ RE is not what you think it is. Its not Religious Education anymore. That got changed to PTE (Philosophy Theory and Ethics), I struggle to keep up myself!
Sex Education in the 90s
As a 90’s child I didn’t have Sex education when I was in primary school. It was seen as children are too young to understand. I had my “Talk” whilst in secondary school. I went to a Roman Catholic School. Although I’m an Atheist, my parents chose the school for my brothers, as it was one of the best public secondary schools in the area and I just followed suit.
I remember, when the time came for Sex Education, as it was called then. I was at the start of year 9, so I was around 13 ish. A letter got sent home, in a brown envelope. All important letters got sent in brown envelopes for some reason??. A sticky label with “Only to be opened to by parent or guardian” on the front. I knew I wasn’t in trouble(for a change) as everyone in my year group got handed one. It was like some top secret information no child was allowed to know about, and to this day I still don’t know what that letter said.
A week or so later, after lunch one day. Registration was taken. Just as two first year pupils, promoted to ‘register runners’ (not sure why they were called that, as they weren’t allowed to run in the corridor) come in the classroom to collect the register to run them to reception. I spot 2 teachers waiting covertly outside. One male and one female teacher. Once the coast was clear of the two “registers runners” we were told to divide. Girls on one side of the classroom and boys on the other. We were then led to the year 11 house block. Boys led by the male teacher, and girls led to a different house block by the female teacher.
As you can imagine the conversations in the marching line were of curiosity. Somethings going down. Why are we getting split up? We finally reach our destination and as we walk in to the year 11 house block, which stank of Charlie body spray and Lynx Africa. On the back wall there was big cut out letters from what I presume was colourful 90’s wallpaper saying “LETS TALK ABOUT SEX” and a TV on wheels. The type you get excited about because you think you’re having the afternoon out of lessons to watch a film.
How sex education was taught in the 90s
We actually were going to have the afternoon off from lessons and watch a fuzzy Betamax video. It just wasn’t what we all expected. Oh Wow! It was descriptive and very pictorial. It covered every sexual subject you could think of, puberty, arousals, sperm, orgasms, pregnancy, birth and STI’s with pictures illustrating them! I don’t think any of us could keep a straight face.
A lot of the talk was actually about how sex gets a girl pregnant and how it causes STI’s, I suppose in a sense promoting sexual activity.
We all got handed a banana… you know where I’m going with this, but at the time none of us did. We genuinely thought it was a bit of a break so a few of us peeled the banana and ate it. After receiving a clip round the back of the head we were given another banana and a condom. “Lets all practice safe sex, I want you all to attempt to put the condom on over the banana” says the teacher. It wasn’t as easy as the video made it look. Mind you, you couldn’t see much on the video as it was all fuzzy with a jittery grey line across it. I bet the girls had the VHS. I dread to think what the girls had to practice and what fruit did they use!?
Lets talk about sex
All in all Sex Education in the 90’s was all a bit wishy washy, I cant say, at the time, if I learned much from it other than negativity surrounding sex. Sex isn’t pleasurable, sex is only for procreation, sex will give you a disease.. to be fair.. if you’re putting a condom on a banana instead of where its supposed to go you’re opening yourself up to all sorts of outcomes.
Sexual health in the modern day
The education of sexual health has changed a lot over the years. Especially with so may diverse people throughout the world and so many sexualities it has to be educated differently. The title of this post is “Lets talk about Sex” and I’m sure a lot of you opened it up to read out of curiosity.
That’s where we are in this modern era of technology, social media, social influence and so on. Sex, pornography, innuendo and crude language is everywhere. Curiosity gets the better of us. Its too easily accessible and children can be influenced in the wrong way. Effective relationship and sex education will allow them to make responsible and well informed decisions regarding their sexual health and wellbeing.
This article isn’t about my views on how sex education is taught. It is a reflection on how times change and with such a diverse culture that we have now. I do believe though, that sex education should be diversified into relationship building, self respect and of course the physical and biological aspects of it.
What was your experience of sex education in school? Did you eat the fruit!? Let me know in the comments.