Whether or not sex education should be a part of a school curriculum has always been a huge controversy. Over the years, it has fuelled plenty of media opinion and has set lawmakers against parents and parents against school authorities. Somewhere in the middle of the battlefield, sit befuddled young people – who end up receiving confusing messages and turn to thoroughly unreliable sources like the internet, or their peers for information.
The term ‘teenager’ is synonymous with being unpredictable, and the inherent risk-taking streak in 13 to 19-year-olds makes them even more vulnerable to the hard-hitting consequences of poor sex and sexuality information. This leads to an increasing number of young people being hopelessly unprepared, both emotionally as well as socially, to handle the confusion, responsibilities, and stress that comes with navigating their way through a healthy life ahead.
What Is Sex Education?
Sex education is a set of detailed instructions pertaining to sex and human sexuality. It typically covers topics such as:
- The sexual anatomy in humans
- Sexual activity and reproduction
- Age of sexual consent
- How to maintain reproductive health
- Reproductive rights
- Safe sex
- Birth control
- Sexual abstinence including emotional relations and responsibilities
Most counselors take precaution on how to present this sensitive topic to kids because a single misrepresentation may give them a wrong idea about sex.
When Does Sex Education Start?
Ideally, sex education should start at home, much before the child starts going to school.
Every child is exposed to sexual language and imagery in their environment. Many children even come from homes where parents and other family members have to deal with sexual abuse on a daily basis. For these young minds, curiosity is inevitable and they will start looking for answers at home. They will start to question things to do with their bodies, why people around them behave a certain way, intimate scenes from movies, and pictures of scantily clad models in magazines.
It is, therefore, the parents’ responsibility to start sex education right away by giving answers that clarify, not confuse, these issues for children.
Unfortunately, most parents shy away from talking about sex and sexuality with their children, hoping that teachers will deal with this ‘uncomfortable’ subject at school. They use ‘cute’ nicknames for intimate body parts instead of using the actual terms and cook up whimsical stories about how children are born, failing to address the gravity of the topic. Some parents even focus on making it sound frightening by saying things like “If you have sex, you will die.”, thinking this will curb their children’s curiosity.
Most teens, therefore have no one to talk to about sex and sexuality. They then turn to friends at school who are pretty much in the same boat or form their own opinions from various media channels.
Hence, it is the responsibility of parents to make their children feel comfortable about the subject of sex and sexuality at home. This, along with good and healthy sex education imparted by teachers at school, can greatly help children cope with the pressures of growing up.
8 Reasons Why School Children Need A Good Sex Education
Most teenagers experience sex education that’s almost similar to driving lessons; they are explained in detail what lies under the bonnet, how the various bits and pieces work, how to maintain the car properly in order to avoid accidents, what the various controls do and when you can finally get onto the road. It’s all about the mechanics.
A good sex education, however, goes much beyond that. It aims at teaching teenagers about the personal, emotional, societal and cultural elements which mold the way in which they choose to conduct their lives. Equipped with this understanding, young people can make far more responsible and well thought out decisions.
Here are 8 things that a good sex education can teach teenagers:
1. Sex Comes With Responsibility
Every teenager has been told that sex is always best if there is latex or contraception involved. Yes, this does bring down the chances of contracting STDs or various sexual diseases or getting knocked up and then having to go through the mental and physical stress of dealing with all these issues. However, it also means that you:
- Get adequate sexual knowledge before engaging in intercourse
- Protect your own and your partner’s sexual health
- Be respectful towards what your partner wants to do, and make sure that it’s a good experience for both parties involved
- Protect each other from emotional and physical abuse and exploitation
- Establish mutually satisfying relationships that don’t just involve sex, but also a mutual respect for each other.
2. Good Touch And Bad Touch
Childhood sexual abuse is often a hard topic to broach with your kids, but is nevertheless, still very important. Here are some ways you can teach your children to differentiate between ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch’.
- Body Ownership – Teach your kids that their bodies belong to them and that they can decide whether someone should touch them or not.
- Use The Swimsuit Rule – The next time your child wears a swimsuit, teach them that the parts that are covered by the suit are private and no one should be seeing or touching that area.
- Do Not Baby Talk – If your children seem curious about their body parts during bath time, teach them the appropriate anatomy names instead of using childish names. Keep the conversation serious, yet lighthearted, preferably while engaging in everyday activities such as making the bed or playtime.
- Explain What Good And Bad Touch Is – Make this into a game where you list down various types of touch from different people such as hitting, kissing, giving high fives, patting on the back, touching private parts at the doctor’s, kicking, a stranger touching private parts, etc. and ask your children to tell you what they think is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and why. Also, point it out to your kids when you see them engaging in bad touch. If they are hitting their siblings or a friend, tell them it’s ‘bad touch’ and that it is not a good thing.
3. There’s More To Sex Than Biology
For us humans, sexual intercourse is much more than a means to reproduce; it also has deep social and psychological meaning. Today especially, a lot of us engage in sexual intercourse for pleasure, recreation, revenge, and passion. We do it out of happiness, and sometimes we do it as a way to release our sadness. We engage in intercourse with friends, enemies, nice people, terrible people, good looking people as well as not so good looking people. Sometimes we seek intercourse because we’re bored. We seek it when we feel alone, and we seek it when we’re in love.
This is where a good sex education can help, for it can bring to light, the deeper, interpersonal meaning of sex, and can teach teenagers how intercourse can be responsible for setting clear expectations and boundaries and can help communicate unspoken desires. On the other side of the spectrum, sex education can also teach youngsters how to handle feelings of awkwardness and shame.
4. Respecting Personal Boundaries
Sex education will teach today’s youth that it is the mature thing to state one’s sexual intentions and desires clearly. This doesn’t just mean being able to confidently tell someone that you want to engage in sexual intercourse with them, it also means being able to tell someone you’re attracted to them, or that you want to date them.
Teenagers today need to be taught that there is absolutely no shame in agreeing or disagreeing to sex and that they should not be ashamed or shame another person for saying so either, regardless of orientation, gender, or reason. Personal desires are extremely valid and deserve to be voiced appropriately, as are rejections of personal desires by another individual. They should both be respected.
5. Sex Is Not A Reflection Of Your Value As A Person
Neither boys, nor girls should be shamed for being virgins, for having plenty of intercourse, or for not being able to get people to agree to sexual intercourse with them. If this continues, boys will continue to manipulate girls into sticky situations where the consent is not too clear, and girls will continue to use sex to win boys over every time they feel powerless or worthless.
This sort of an arrangement leads to frustration, lies, deceit, and sometimes, even rape. For this reason, sexual violence and divorce are the highest in countries where there is a strong culture of sexual shame.
Sex education teaches children how the value of a human being should never be judged on how much sex you’re having or not having, or whether you’re married or divorced. This way it curbs the need for people to do or say hurtful things to people of the opposite gender, as a means of justification to get their own way.
6. Different Sexual Orientations Are Not Unnatural
Homosexuality is completely natural; there’s absolutely nothing immoral about being homosexual, or even experimenting with homosexuality. Also, here’s an interesting fact: psychological studies have shown that homophobic people are in reality, those who repress their own homoerotic instincts. Freud has pointed out very clearly to us that we tend to hate in others, what we are the most ashamed of in ourselves.
Good sex education teaches teenagers that homosexuality is very likely related to prenatal hormones and might even be genetic. It’s seen in the animal kingdom and has been cataloged down the years of human history across cultures. Sexual orientation is really a broad spectrum and people have the right to oscillate across it over the course of their lives. Therefore, bi-curiosity and gender experimentation are very common urges in both genders and this, in no way makes someone socially unacceptable.
7. Men And Women Experience Sex Differently
Psychological and neurological studies over the years have proved that men and women are very different from each other. There is a reason why gays and lesbians differ in their interactions with each other, from the sexual dimorphism in the human species, and also from subjective accounts of various transsexuals who turn to hormone replacement treatments. Hence it is obvious that sex drives will also differ between men and women.
Sex education reinforces this thought and teaches children that both men and women should be treated with equal respect for their differences. It teaches people how women usually have a sexual orientation that is open and changing and may lean more heavily towards one gender while at the same time, being open to all genders. Men, on the other hand, are more physical and more visually oriented when it comes to being aroused, and on an average across cultures and populations, they usually lean towards engaging in sexual intercourse more often and with a much wider variety of partners.
Sex education helps youngsters understand that while there is nothing inherently wrong for men or women to be a certain way, it also doesn’t give them the license to justify unethical or immoral behavior. In other words, a man born with a very high sex drive doesn’t make him a pervert or a womanizer, at the same time, it doesn’t give him the right to force himself on women.
8. Great Relationships Mean Great Sex
Teenagers are told to wait until they get married, as though having someone place a ring on their finger will automatically resolve everything including personal insecurities about sexuality. No, it doesn’t.
There is a reason why we hear so many people mourn about how they wish they had had the chance to get personal and intimate with more people before they decided to tie the knot.
A good sex education doesn’t focus only on fallopian tubes, zygotes, and X and Y chromosomes. It brings to one’s attention the science of romantic relationships as well – such as emotional needs, attachment theory, dealing with anxiety attacks on meeting someone attractive, and the innate differences between lust, love, and commitment.
A good sex education is not just for teenagers, but also for adults. Sex and sexuality are very delicate areas that need to be addressed by experienced people whom children can trust. Since parents and teachers become the immediate role models for nearly all children, they can greatly help in breaking down the meaning and significance of sex and sexuality. This way, they can work together to help teenagers from across the world over to stay healthy, be more informed and more respectful, and to be more responsible citizens.