Sexting and the exchange of sexually explicit photos seems to be the main preoccupation when the Telegraph reported on a study about the sexual attitudes of teens last week, but that could be basic pandering to its readership instead of the actual area of concern because here’s something all parents need to get to grips with: there will always be the exploration of sexuality among teenagers. That is a fact.
The main area of concern is the growing number within the study who found that porn was a good way to learn about sex (almost half of boys involved in the study found this statement to be true) and that the prevalence of porn was putting pressure on them to act a certain way. If teens are turning to porn for information about sex then it shows that not only are parents failing to talk to their children about the “birds and the bees” but the sex education system is failing to combat the messages teens are receiving from all social outlets.
The study identifies that some participants feel pressured into having sex earlier than the age of consent through the rushed and awkward sex education provided mostly in schools. I can wholeheartedly agree that the sex education provided in schools in the UK is not enough because it is taught by teachers who don’t fully know about what information needs to be given to students to protect them not just physically but also emotionally.
Not only that, sex education needs to start covering healthy relationships, consensual sex, female orgasm, and the politics surrounding sex. Sex education needs to provide impartial advice. Currently your experience of sex education is totally dependent on the enthusiasm of the teacher allocated to your class and as far as I can remember, the only useful information I ever received during high school was from a sex education worker from a charity specializing in STD awareness who came into my school for an hour once in a few years; it was the first time I had heard of a dental dam.
Sex education definitely does not pressure teens into having sex early because those who don’t want to have sex won’t have sex unless pressured by their partner. All current Sex education does is to provide them with information to prevent teenage pregnancy; but not properly educate us on the various facets of sex. We know “abstinence only” sex education won’t reduce the number of teenagers having sex before the age of consent because telling teens that they should wait until the age of consent doesn’t stop those who want to have sex from doing so, but sex education needs to start going beyond the physicalities of sexual activity into the mental and political side of things. Otherwise we are failing our youngsters by leaving them to discover a distorted reality of sex via a click on a dodgy website.
Image Rights; Sarah Scicluna