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Different reactions to sex ed report

December 6th, 2005

Dr Petra

On Sunday I talked about coverage in The Observer about a government report on new sex education proposals. In any discussion about sex education there are always lots of different views, and not everyone’s in favour of sex education or find the issue threatening. I’ve picked out a number of responses from the Daily Mail newspaper’s website about the proposed report to illustrate a number of common views people hold about young people and sex education.

Teaching young people about sex will encourage them to have sex
“Children at the age of five should not be taught sex education as this will only increase their interest for having sex”. Babangida, Nigeria.

“Sex education at 5 years old on the basis of the supposed idea that if they know about sex and relationships they won’t be tempted to try it out.
When a child learns to write at school, the first thing he/she does on returning home is to try to write, be it on paper, the walls, or any other available surface. The same applies with drawing. And when learning to read, mum and dad are urged to listen to his/her new found skills.
I rest my case!
If, however, the Government insists on sex education being taught,why oh why can’t they teach parenting skills at the same time. Parenting skills do not come automatically and have to be learnt, sometimes too late to be of any use to the child.
Next thing the Government will be suggesting is taking the babies away from us at birth, as they already consider that we don’t know what’s best for our offsprings. God help the children”. Barbara, UK.

Sex education should be provided at home, not at school
“I think they are wrong, the more ideas children are given, the more they want to try! It seems, since the advent of sex education, that things have got steadily worse. The whole family thing should be taught by the family, not by the state. Experts are only experts when they have learned from books, real experts are the ones who have done it successfully for real!!” Nigel, Somerset.

Children are innocents/too young to learn about sex
“The thought of my four year old son having sex lessons as early as next year appalls me. When I was at school in the late 1970′s my sex education started at 8 years old, in retrospect I feel that was much too early. Children’s innocence has been eroded enough already, why can’t they wait until they reach secondary school, on the onset of puberty, at least then it will have more relevance. Before that, any questions (awkward or otherwise) can be answered by the parents”. Rachel, UK.

“Have heard it all now – why is it that we cannot just let children be children – instead of ‘stripping’ them completely of all innocence? With Christmas coming up – are we all going to impart that Father Christmas doesn’t exist too?! Society just gets crazier and crazier – where it will all end I shudder to think. I was protected as a child and didn’t know about the birds and bees until I was at least 14 – maybe I was naive for my age but so grateful that I did have a childhood to look back fondly and not with adult issues that are for adults – where does one draw the line?!” Helen, UK.

Reading or writing should come before sex education
“Another idiotic scheme ill thought out. This should be considered after children can read and write and at present this should be near the 12 to 14 mark according to present results! Perhaps they should show in schools the films they showed me in the Army. That should put most off sex for a long time”. Don, Brandon, UK.

“Maybe they should concentrate on teaching them to read first so they can read the instructions on the back of the condom packet”. Cameron, UK.

“What an absolute load of rubbish! Why can’t we just concentrate on giving children the basics of literacy and numeracy and leave their childhood alone. I did not have any sex education at school until I did biology in my second year at secondary school – it did not do me any harm but I do have fond memories of an innocent childhood”. Sandy, UK.

Peer pressure is a problem
“When I was at school we had the biology lessons and we also had a video on STD’s but that was it (and it was enough). In those days (late ’70′s) there was still some (but not a huge) amount of stigma attached to pregnancy outside marriage, so that promoted some caution. More relevant though is that sex was not so prevalent in movies and on TV (any movie with a nudity or sex was classes as X or 18), so there was not so much peer pressure. Thats all changed now so peer pressure (which includes images promoted by the media) is huge. So to teach kids that its OK not to give in to peer pressure is a very good thing”. Gary, Birmingham.

Sex educators/liberals are suspect
“This is complete folly. It was assumed, by sensible people, that sex education would increase sexual activity and more pregnancies. What is the outcome? Just that, together with sexual diseases from more promiscuity. So called ‘progressives’ have only one thought – how to demoralise a country. No doubt they will be rejoicing, and now want to include even younger children in their biased, and dangerous, deviations”. Lorna, UK.

Sex education is an issue for girls
“Kids should be allowed to be kids. Yes if a girl is poorly educated in this area she may get told and believe all the playground myths and get pregnant or contract something nasty and if she doesn’t learn will, by ignorance, allow her own daughter to do the same and this cycle must be broken…..”. Amanda, UK.

“What an incredibly naive and stupid idea! Giving children sex education at a younger age will only arouse their curiosity in sex – at a younger age. The Dutch have found that the best way to reduce teenage pregnancies is by reducing child benefit and that most young girls who get pregnant come from single parent families, of which there are five times more in the UK than in Holland. No doubt many of these young girls make the same career choice as their mothers, by “marrying” the State and living on benefits”. John, England.

In favour of sex education
“Doesn’t the article say that five year olds will be taught about friendship, relationships and bullying? The sex part of the education is aimed at older children. I am 20 now, and can remember having “sex” education at 8 and 9 years old. It was mostly focused on puberty and physical body changes and why they were happening which is perfectly sensible considering girls are starting puberty earlier these days and it isn’t that rare for 9 or 10 year olds to have begun to develop physical signs of maturity. If they don’t know what is happening to them, they risk being very unsure of themselves. And any even half way intelligent child will have worked out what sex is by the time they are 8, we live in a world where sex is all around- it would be better, however, if any myths could be explained rather than left to fester”. Simone, UK.

“I welcome this initiative. In Primary school children should be exposed to education that explains what is a normal and happy home – family, relationships and feelings because this is important for good mental health. They should be prepared for what to expect at puberty: changes in their bodies and how hormones change the way they feel and about male/female relationships and how to say no to sex. I remember when I was 14 I was given a leaflet explaining how to say no and I used that when I was in situations where I might have otherwise submitted to the pressure”.

“I wish people reading this article would see beyond the unrepresentative headline “children as young as 5 taught about sex,” because this education recommendation is broader and talks about life and lets face it, not every child is told this and it does need to be said”. Denise, Trinidad & Tobago.

“Sex is consistently treated as something that is taboo, and it sparks curiosity in children. Children should be taught about families and relationships, and all the form’s that they take. I don’t think anyone is suggesting we tell them something explicit, but with the increasing diversity in family types children need to learn about these things to prevent prejudices. Childhood is not as innocent as it used to be, and no amount of complaining will change that. We need to treat children with respect and realise that they are capable of understanding a lot more than they have previously been given credit for!” Jenny, UK.

The variety of views outlined above shows just how difficult it is to provide information about sex to young people and parents – and the range of concerns and questions we need to address in our education programmes. If we dismiss these views it’s going to be very difficult to provide sex education in a safe and supportive way. So far all proposals on this issue don’t appear to be equipped to reassure the public about the evidence around sex education.

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