This is not
a very satisfactory or effective way to learn about sex. At
a single-sex school, sex is somewhat of a mystery even to those
students who like to pretend they're worldly-wise and experienced.
Kids are going to talk
about sex among themselves regardless of how much they know or don't
know already, but peer influence is so strong that ignorance in
these matters may be taken for truth. For example, a boy could
brag to his mates that he slept with a certain girl the night before
when, in fact, he didn't. A girl could tell her friends she
experienced an orgasm when she doesn't have the first clue what
it means to have one, or even what it is. Kids often feel
pressured to have sex when they are totally unready. All this
is hard enough, but can you imagine how confusing this morass of
information is to a teenager who has been told nothing clearly?
Without the benefit of
informed choices, a girl could find herself in the back seat of
a car with her skirt up to her waist, unable to fend off unwanted
advances. Worse still, she may feel desires and arousal she
doesn't understand. Her own responses can terrify her. What
of the boy or girl who is sexually attracted to friends of the same
gender, or who develops a crush on the teacher? How much of
this is 'wrong' and how much is a normal part of development?
It's very difficult for
a teenager of either sex to ask for help and guidance. Being
secretive and rebellious is all part of the growing-up process.
If the lines of communication were not laid down in childhood, it's
very hard to establish them during the teenage years. A common
cry I hear from parents is, 'Why won't my teenage child talk to
me?'. The answer is simple teenagers tend not to trust
adults and they certainly won't open up to parents who have not
been available in the child's earlier years.
Yet, at best, books about
sex and clinical talks at school are substitutes and should only
be supplements to the real thing. No parent would really want
their child to learn about sex from a pornographic magazine or in
the back seat of a car. I did a lot of so-called petting when
I was a teenager and I used to say that my boyfriends and I did
a lot of 'groping' but we didn't know what we were groping for!
In those days, nice girls didn't and there was never any question
of going 'all the way' but we did everything else.
That type of experimentation
is normal and healthy, as is masturbation and talking and joking
about sex. What I'm against is leaving young people to find
out about sex from their mistakes and misinformation they pick up.
It's too serious for that.
Having sex prematurely,
unwanted pregnancy, scarred reputations, suicide, drug-taking and
alcoholism, anxiety, poor school performance these are just
some of the consequences of inadequate sex education.
A lot of the unfortunate
attitudes about sex that cause problems in adult life stem from
false ideas that are placed into young minds. Sexual dysfunctions,
non-orgasmic women, sexual partners unable to talk to each other
freely, adultery, divorce, stress on male sexual performance, low
libido problems, even infertility, can be linked in part to lack
In summary, let me just
say that a lack of sex education is an incomplete education.
It is a false picture of life we are offering young people at school
if we do not arm them with at least the basic facts about their
bodies, the importance of hygiene and practising safe sex, how to
relate to each other in a sexual way, what sexual pleasure entails,
how to avoid pregnancy and so on. It's no use putting our
heads in the sand and ignoring these obligations. I'd go so
far as to say that no parent has the right to choose not to teach
their children about sex. If they can't talk about it themselves,
they should designate another adult in the family to do it, or supply
the necessary literature.
Even before the onset
of puberty, kids are naturally curious in a specific way about sex,
and from puberty onwards, the curiosity becomes much more urgent
as bodies develop and urges increase. This is inevitable and
unstoppable. To tell kids just to 'control themselves' is
no answer at all. It's like suggesting that the moon shouldn't
bother to come out one night. We adults are the ones with
the blinkers on and it's up to us to remove them. I'm all
for self-discipline but the young must be allowed to make informed
choices; otherwise, they grow up into adults who lurch from mistake
to mistake, hurt others, become addicted to sex and other things,
are unable to sustain meaningful relationships, and become statistics
of loneliness, unhappiness and often suicide.