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conducive environment

Atmosphere for learning is always vital and particularly so in sex education.  There needs to be a suitable facilitator, by which I mean a person who genuinely likes kids, has the necessary knowledge and expertise, as well as high communication skills, and is totally comfortable with the subject matter.

Boys and girls in school need to learn to discuss personal issues without embarrassment.  Diagrams and illustrations must be freely available and the correct words used for the parts of the body and various sex acts, such as fellatio, cunnilingus, buggary, etc.  If the teacher is hedging, the students again will pick up the message that sex is somehow 'dirty'.  There are still grown women today who speak of having a 'naughty' with their husbands.  Where do you think they picked up that expression?  It can only have come from an attitude learnt in childhood, either from a mother who didn't enjoy sex, or from an over-prescriptive school education.

What laughingly passed for sex education when I was at high school came only in the final year — far too late.  Most of us (I went to an all-girls school) knew the facts of life by then and had experimented to some degree.  The local parish priest was sent to face a roomful of giggling teenage girls.  He was totally ill-equipped to deal with the material he had to cover and the sending-up he had to endure by way of the facetious questions that were placed in a box for his attention.  These included, 'At what age should a girl wear a bra?' or 'Is it a sin to neck?'.  My personal favourite was, 'How long should a kiss last?', to which the answer was given, 'As long as it takes to say the Our Father!'.

In short, he and the class were a joke.  It was humiliating for him and an entire waste of time for us.  I realise that times have changed but I don't know of too many schools where a professional counsellor is engaged to teach personal development and life skills.  Dealing with problems and troubleshooting, yes, but prevention and education, sadly, no.  There is the usual excuse of budget limitations but I see life-skills education, including the teaching of sex, as a necessity today, not a luxury.

The teaching of moral values within a religious context is, of course, tackled in the various church schools and that's good.  However, it still needs to be handled with a view to the actual world we live in, not a protected fantasy world behind cloistered walls.  Sex education should be taught with humour, common sense and in an atmosphere of love, open-mindedness and frankness.  Otherwise, it can do more harm than good.



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