5 lessons in sex education

Progress, albeit extremely and painfully slow, is being made in implementing statutory sex and relationships education (SRE) into schools across the UK. Change is coming. Hopefully. I volunteer with an independent student-led charity called Sexpression and we go into schools around Sheffield and teach SRE lessons to young people.

When I was in school, all I got given was a couple of free condoms - not even accompanied by a lesson on when, where and how I should use them. The young people of today are lucky to live in the internet age but that's just not good enough. Firstly, because many teens are using porn as a form of sex education but as we know, porn sex is not real sex, but they might not know that yet. Secondly, because you'd think it should be in the bloody government's interest to teach it's youth important life lessons but evidently it's not.

This is, of course, not an extensive list. The lessons to be learnt are possibly endless. These are just a few I consider to be pretty major.

1.   S E X   I S   F O R   P L E A S U R E

Sex education desperately needs to be made more sex positive. Sex is not just for making babies or something that can give you nasty and sometimes deadly infections. Unwanted pregnancy and STIs are very much a real thing amongst young people but they wouldn't be if we actually taught them how to have safe sex and prevent these situations.

The real reason why most people actually have sex is for pleasure purposes. Sex feels good and sex is fun because of that. Two very simple messages that yet somehow fail to be conveyed properly if at all. Heterosexual, penis in vagina sex is what young people are exposed to the most. A lot of the times, we just see a man thrusting inside a woman until he finishes. That's what we see in the movies anyway. Let's unpack that scene:

The lack of foreplay is worrying. All that thrusting looks like hard work. Do any other moves actually exist? What exactly is finishing? Can women have orgasms too? She didn't look like she was enjoying herself much. Why was her clitoris, the only organ in the body designed solely for pleasure, being neglected? There's so much more to sex as they know it. There are other holes that can be used too. "A mouth, maybe, but surely not your ass?" they ask. Well, yes, actually.

2.   B O D I L Y   A W A R E N E S S
These ah-mazing illustrations are by Erin Tobey
Until I fell into the dark depths of the web, otherwise known as Tumblr, I thought my vagina was ugly. I thought my vagina was weird. I thought my vagina was anything but normal. People with penises have similar fears too. It is big enough? I imagine that to be one of the primary concerns. Another thing that needs to be taught about vaginas and penises is what they do. How do they work and why do they work that way? The vagina is so complex and so misunderstood. If a vagina could speak, I'd imagine it would have a lot to say. But vaginas can't talk so we need to do the talking for them. A session or two on periods wouldn't go a miss either.

Breasts are another area of concern. Mine were less than perky and I didn't think people under the age of 30 had saggy boobs so I thought there was something wrong with me. Of course now I know I'm completely normal. Speaking of boobs, boobs and balls need to be examined regularly. A self-examination demonstration to teach young people how check that everything is normal and healthy would do wonders. Additionally, once of age 25, women need to attend regular cervical screenings.

3.   H O W   T O   C H O O S E   A   C O N T R A C E P T I O N 

People always talk about THE pill as if there is just one universal pill that is given out to everyone. Firstly there are two different types of contraceptive pills: the combined oestrogen and progesterone pill and the progesterone only pill. Between those there are many brands which produce different variations of each pill.

The pill, for females only, is short-acting, reversible and hormonal form of contraception. There are also long-acting, irreversible, non-hormonal forms of contraception.  If you're a male, there are only two available to you: the condom and the vasectomy. If you're a woman, you have a lot more to consider. How could you possibly know what form of contraception is right for you though? A lot of trial and error and perhaps the help of a quiz that would ask some of the following questions:

Why do you need contraception? To prevent pregnancy or to prevent STIs or to both? Condoms are the only form of contraception that prevent against STIs. How old are you? If you're young and living at home, you might need to consider if you want your parents to know. If not, you'll need a contraceptive method which can easily be hidden from them and your nosy little sister. What kind of lifestyle do you lead? If you're busy bee or just terrible at remembering things you might need to consider an implant or the injection over a pill that you have to remember to take at the same time every day. The side effects of contraception are also something which shouldn't be missed out during the selection process. If you have awful periods which are heavy and painful, you might want to consider a contraception that makes them disappear completely or at least lighten the flow or ease up the cramps. That requires a great deal of hormones though, and that's yet another consideration to be had.

Additionally, the myths surrounding emergency contraception urgently need to be busted and the stigma removed.

4.   G E N D E R   A N D   S E X U A L I T Y 

As well as sex positivity, sex inclusivity needs to ensue. The little sex education that does exist focuses on sex between a man and a woman. But even before the actual having sex part, there is a lot that needs to be discussed.

My teenage years (and early twenties so far) have been an on going series of identity crises. This video above is less than 5 minutes and could have saved me a lot of headache when I was younger. A lesson on gender and sexuality could help young people come to terms with their identities and let them know that what we're feeling is 100% valid. This is particularly important if someone's identity expression falls beyond the heteronormative confines of our society and so what they're feeling feels far from normal.

Additionally, we can (hopefully) help tackle discrimination through education.

5.   C O N S E N T ,   C O N S E N T ,   C O N S E N T !

This short video perfectly explains everything that needs to be known about consent with the use of a tea analogy which should be perfect for us Brits as we know and love tea very well.

A girl from one of my classes asked me if you are allowed to say no to sex with a boyfriend. If that doesn't tell you that consent needs to be covered on the SRE curriculum then I don't know what does. We live in a society in which rape culture is very much alive and well when it shouldn't have even been born in the first place.

Consent needs to be obtained in all instances, not just penetrative sex. Unless you have his consent, it is never OK to pinch a man's bum in a nightclub because you think he's cute. Unless you have her consent, it is never OK to kiss a girl even if she has been flirting with you in class all day. Unless you have his consent, it is never OK to place the penis of the guy you've been dating in your mouth. Unless you have her consent, it is never OK to place your fingers inside of her vagina.

The different forms of consent and different ways in which consent can be obtain really need to be stressed too.

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