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learning from friends or experimentation

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 of knowledge.

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.



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