Why sex education isn’t working
Over 300,000 people have signed a petition calling for compulsory sex and relationship education (SRE) in British schools. Signatories include feminists Laura Bates, Caitlin Moran and Dr Helen Pankhurst, who are concerned about rising levels of sexualisation and harassment in the classroom.
SRE has been taught for decades. The Labour government was particularly intent on teaching kids about the birds and the bees – by 2010, it had enrolled 99 per cent of schools in a ‘healthy schools programme’, which covered sports and smoking in addition to sex education.
Instead of putting kids at ease about sex and relationships, the obsession with SRE has done the opposite. Sexting in under-16-year-olds has skyrocketed over the last two years and children as young as 13 are using dating apps like Tinder. Instead of teaching kids about sex education, SRE seems to have made our young ones develop an unhealthy obsession with sex.
Still, this hasn’t changed the drive to introduce SRE in schools at an even younger age. Nicky Morgan, the former education secretary, faced immense criticism earlier this year for not making SRE (technically) compulsory. In an open letter, chairs of the education, health, home affairs and business committee warned Morgan that SRE was crucial to ‘preparing young people for life’.
What is most concerning about new calls for SRE to be compulsory is the influence of contemporary feminism. Consent workshops teach kids to expect sexual encounters to be potentially dangerous. Not only does it scare kids witless, it also propagates the idea that young girls are victims and that young boys are predators. In psychology there is a phenomenon called ‘stereotype threat’, whereby you are made aware of a stereotype of yourself which then impacts on future decisions. Telling young girls that they ‘might be assaulted’ teaches them to be scared of sex.
Surely the most significant thing schools can do to protect children from sexualisation is to ensure that they’re intelligent and well-rounded human beings, with the confidence to set their own boundaries. But most of all, we must argue that sex is an adult preoccupation, kids should learn about sex when they are old enough to need to know about it. Let’s kick sex-obsessed adults out of the classroom and let kids be kids.
Charlotte Gill is a writer and blogger. Follow her on Twitter: @C_C_Gill