Friday, 26 April 2013

Equality In Sex Education

Today Andy and I found out what Adam's school is going to be teaching him about sex and relationships, and I've got some concerns.

They're going to start by teaching them about male and female body parts, and which parts you've got if you're a girl, and which parts you've got if you're a boy. Which is great, but not all boys have 'boy parts' and not all girls have 'girl parts'. I know some parents are uncomfortable with the idea of their children learning about this stuff but I couldn't give a shit; children don't find this scary or confusing to learn about, adults do.

I was appalled to find out that this year they are only allowed to teach them about pregnancy, and how embryos grow into a baby. If a child asks them how the embryo gets there they are legally not allowed to answer their question. This is mind bogglingly stupid to me. How are children supposed to develop healthy positive attitudes towards sex when they get told "You'll have to ask your parents, I'm not allowed to answer that question."? It's sending the clear message that there's something secretive about sex and asking questions is the wrong thing to do - the exact opposite of the message that children should be getting!

The teacher showed us part of a video that they're going to be showing the children, and explained that part of it will be edited out because they've had a lot of parents say that they were uncomfortable with their children seeing it. And what awful thing did this video show? It was an animation showing a vulva and pointing out what a clitoris is, and that sometimes it gets hard and it feels nice.

That's all.

Bear in mind that they very next thing shown is an animation of a penis and an explanation that sometimes it gets hard and it feels nice. For fucks' sake people! Is it any wonder that our attitudes to sex are fucked up when we are taught at the age of seven that it's fine for boys to have sexual feelings, but it's deliberately censored when it comes to the same feelings in girls. This censorship of female sexuality is perpetuating the idea that sex is for men to enjoy, and women are just the facilitators for their enjoyment. It feeds rape culture by giving the impression that women don't enjoy sex anyway, and it tells young girls that their natural feelings are wrong and shameful. After all, if they were supposed to feel this way surely someone would have mentioned it like they did with the boys. The whole thing feeds into the idea that girls and women are supposed to be kept 'pure' and 'clean' and 'virginal', an incredibly damaging and dangerous idea.

They won't be teaching the children about menstruation until next year at the earliest, even though they've had a girl in the past start her period in Year 3. Can you imagine how scary that must be? You're 7 years old, maybe 8, and all of a sudden you're bleeding from your vagina and you have no idea why. You're told that it's natural, but how can it be? It must be something embarrassing and wrong and awful, because if it wasn't, surely someone would have told you about it before it happened?

They don't learn about contraception or masturbation until Year 6, and even then contraception is talked about in the context of not getting pregnant, with no mention of STIs. Sexuality also won't be taught until Year 6, but possibly not at all. Yes, you read that correctly. They might not even mention that there is anything to sex other than 'the man puts his penis in the woman's vagina'. I got the impression that sex will also only be talked about in the context of making babies with nothing at all about people doing it because it feels nice.

Anyway, after the meeting I asked Adam's year group leader if there was any chance of putting the edited out part of the video back in, and I swear I thought for a moment that she was going to hug me. I'm the only parent who has ever, in 12 years of teaching, asked for their child to be given that information. She also said that she wishes more parents were as open minded as we are, which was nice. She can't show that part of the video to everyone (unfortunately), but she did say she can show it to Adam separately.

So even though the sex education isn't great, it's not necessarily the school to blame for all of it. Their hands are tied by what they are legally allowed to teach, and by some parents who don't seem to be mature enough to be raising children. At least his teacher seems to be on our side though, and we're talking a lot about these issues with him at home anyway. Adam and Jack are both completely comfortable with the idea of different sexualities and gender identities because we've never treated them as anything to be uncomfortable with, and I explained to Adam what periods are about six months ago.

The whole sex education curriculum needs to be improved, but I unfortunately can't see it happening any time soon.


  1. "but not all boys have 'boy parts' and not all girls have 'girl parts'"
    You show how easy it would be to rectify these things.

    Staring Sex Ed with pregnancy first is just wrong on so many levels but you have shown that the majority of the structure of sex ed in our schools is

  2. Keep teaching our schools. Here is a great lesson plan on who we are and where kids come from.
    I have more links at

  3. Maybe you saw this on the FP board, but one of the teachers in my state got an official complaint for saying "vagina" with his junior high class. That would be the 12 and 13 year olds. God forbid they learn a clinical term to describe a part of the body. I'm sure their parents would be equally disgusted with "patella" or "ulna".

  4. We had the exact same situation at school (my eldest, Oscar, is in yr 4). Our school isn't censoring it at all - both male and female parts will be shown - but it's the mothers of girls who were freaking out at the meeting and I don't know why. Why shouldn't girls be told the same

  5. Btw the book Mummy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole is a fab way to introduce reproduction to kids. My 2 boys love it