Thursday, 23 October 2008

On Sex Education

So it has now been decreed from on high that 5 year olds in England are to be given sex education. Or, to be precise, sex and relationships education. Or, as far as I could see from the video, they will have discussions about how you can tell whether someone is male or female (a useful skill for anyone entering the dating minefield, of course).

Now of course this has caused quite a furore, as it always does, but WhyNotSmile is rather wondering what all the fuss is about.

Consider: everyone has always had sex education in school. In the toilets, behind the mobile classrooms, in the library - copies of 'More' and 'Just-17' or whatever else happens to be the fashionable mag of the time are passed furtively about and everyone has a good giggle and pretends to understand 'Position of the Fortnight'. Mutterings are made about how good last fortnight's position was (although the only person who has actually tried it is the slightly nerdy girl who tries a bit too hard to be cool and thinks everyone else is, in fact, telling the truth about these things), and how much they'd like to try out this month's.

Sometimes, naturally, such education is actually sanctioned by the school: in primary school we didn't have changing rooms, so we all got ready for PE in the classroom, boys and girls together; in all honesty,while it may have been mildly informative (especially since I didn't have any brothers) I don't remember it being terribly interesting.

Secondly, is there anything more likely to put teenagers off sex than putting them in a classroom and talking about it? Once you get it down to the same level as simultaneous equations, it loses a lot of its appeal. Indeed, the way the education system is going, I suspect that it won't be long before teenagers go off sex completely and teachers start finding them behind the bike sheds reading contraband copies of 'Hamlet' and drawing graphs.

Anyway, I have always been astounded to know that sex education has been compulsory in Northern Irish schools for quite some time. Astonished partly because The Province wouldn't be best-known for a liberal attitude to such things, but mainly because this means I must actually have had sex education while I was at school, and not noticed.

If I cast my mind back, I can only think that what they are talking about was what happened in second-form biology class, and the 'Reproduction' Module. We started with snails, and how they reproduce (boringly, basically). Then we moved on to flowers. We spent quite a while on flowers, if I remember correctly. Then there were some vague hints that it worked in much the same way for people, but with less petals.

We did, somehow, eventually get to spend a lesson drawing the female reproductive system (although I'm not sure that the connection was ever actually made with human females - since we had spent months on snails and flowers, most of us had more or less lost interest in the specifics by this time). Finally, at the end of the lesson, the teacher produced 2 plastic models of the male... um... area and the female one. At this point someone fainted and had to be carried out for air; the ensuing fuss ended the lesson and the subject was never raised again.


Anonymous said...


no joke... someone fainted?

that's a great story

whynotsmile said...

Yeah - out cold!! Had to be carried out for air and then taken to the school nurse!

Poor girl... the fact that she never got teased for it suggested that the rest of us were quite relieved that the lesson had been brought to an end...

Andy said...

that is a thoughtful and very funny post... i was taught sex education by a nun in an all boys school. The irony of it all was not lost on us - even as 14 year olds. The following year we were taught the same stuff by a male PE teacher.

Suffice to say the Nun was all biological abstraction whilst the PE teacher was much more visceral in his approach.

Anonymous said...

Was that one of our split science classes where somehow I found myself in the bottom half of the alphabet? Have vague recollections of biology teacher muttering something about a 'womb with a view' and then suggesting that anyone who was offended should leave the class.

It seems other teachers in the school were unaware that we had such education in 2nd year. During a 6th form critical english lesson one teacher was concerned that we might not understand the term 'bosoms'.

Anonymous said...

would you consider me too strange if, as the father of a 13 year old daughter, I said I was vaguely comforted by this post?

Virtual Methodist said...

As the father of a 13 year old boy I have just had one of the funniest two days of my relationship with the said child, teasing him mercilessly due to a sex ed class that took the place of rugby this week causing annoyance and embarrassment in equal measure. I know... I'm probably reinforcing his social awkwardness... but if you can't have a laugh at the expense of your child where is the fun in life. The other side of it all is that he tells us he learned nothing new, which I find vaguely reassuring re our parenting of him.

whynotsmile said...

Glad you've all enjoyed it!

MilesToGo - I was trying to think whether you were in this class with me or not - Mr Philips (he with the strange glass eye) was the teacher.

crookedshore - I am glad you found this comforting!

VirtualMethodist - that's disgraceful. Absolutely disgraceful. You will scar the boy for life. Only 2 days of teasing?

Anonymous said...

I had a similar class with Mr Philips, but there was a very ominous banana on a stand at the front. I don't remember the banana actually playing a part in the class - so either I've blocked it out or it was a very successful unspoken threat of a contraceptive demonstration for the first person to giggle.

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