Today I am going to discuss something I feel incredibly passionate about, something that I feel is important for all people to have awareness around and that is sexuality and relationship education for young people. It is no secret that there exists a huge lack in the sex and relationship education that is provided to children and teenagers today, with the school system offering the bare minimum of a sex education program for what should be a priority.
How Big Is The Sexual Health Education Problem?
The fact that rates of several sexually transmitted infections have markedly increased over time, as well as the unacceptable rates of sexual violence and assault happening all over the world should be enough to draw attention to the fact that the education that young people are currently receiving is not good enough. These are some of the negative repercussions of a lack of positive sex and relationship education and the extent runs so much deeper than rates and statistics of STI’s and sexual assault. Relationships play such an important role in our overall health and happiness in our lives so knowing how to do them well can mean all the difference between a good and great life.
Most children and teenagers receive education related to sexuality and relationships from parents and school teachers, with the information they gain from this dependant on where they go to school and what their parent’s attitude towards sex is. Now, it is all well and good to leave this education in the hands of parents and school teachers to deliver however when they are not equipped to do so, the consequences of poor sex education can be troublesome.
Talking to parents can be a great way to learn about sex for children and teenagers if their parents have positive views of sex, which unfortunately is not always the case. If parents have negative views and attitudes towards sexuality attached to a history of negative unresolved experiences with sex and relationships, then they are not in the greatest position to impact their children in a positive way. I am not yet a parent but one thing I have come to notice is that the children who grow up with positive views of sex and sexuality have been exposed to parents who are confident and empowered in their own sexuality.
A study completed in 2010 by the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society showed that many school teachers offering sex education in their classes (usually PD/H/PE teachers) felt ill equipped to offer such information to their students, with the majority having no or minimal training in sex education. So despite their best intentions, school teachers can often lack the necessary skills to educate young people on sex and relationships.
Many young people growing up today are exposed to pornography early on in their sexual development (sadly before sexual development for some) and this can have some negative repercussions to what they come to believe about sex throughout their lives.
Pornography displays an unrealistic portrayal of sex, with the clips easily accessible on the internet intended to entertain rather than educate. When young people are exposed to pornography without the awareness of its true intent (i.e. entertainment) they come to believe that the way that sex occurs in porn is the only way. Considering that a large proportion of pornography depicts violence against women, this spells disaster. The actors in porn are having sex in a way that excites the viewer and not in a way that is necessarily pleasurable for them. Pornography does not make for appropriate sex education. Teachers and parents often lack the skills and qualities to teach it effectively so what needs to be done?
Relationship, Intimacy And Sexuality Education Program
A greater emphasis on young people learning about relationships and sex is necessary if we are to see better outcomes for young people. For this reason, I, along with my partner Nic Tovey, have decided to create an educational program specifically for young people to learn skills that will equip them with the confidence to navigate the world of relationships, intimacy and sexuality in a healthy and empowered way. Focusing on and then expanding on the relationship with oneself, this program will teach young people embodied tools and skills that will empower them to make healthy decisions when it comes to sex and relationships.
We are running a forum in Sydney, Australia on March 15th to ascertain the desires and feelings of parents and their teenage children when it comes to sexuality and relationship education. We want our Relationship, Intimacy and Sexuality Education (RISE) program to be informed by the very young people we will be teaching and this opportunity gives parents a say on what they feel is important for their children to learn. The event is open to parents of teenagers and teenagers 12-16 years of age. Event details can be found on Facebook’s RISE forum event page and on Adultsmart’s RISE forum event page. I look forward to seeing as many of you there as possible.
It’s all well and good to notice that changes in sex and relationship education is necessary but if we do not take action, we will see no progression in the way that young people are learning about relationships and sex. There is no better time for change then right now!!
Originally posted on http://www.adultsmart.com.au