Sex seems to fill every television screen. Whether it is a raunchy scene in a new drama or a documentary on Channel 4 about ‘what’s really going on in the world‘. Sex is readily available at the touch of a button. But how educated are we about it?
Watching ‘Sex in Class’, a Channel 4 documentary that followed Goedele Liekens in a Lancashire school, was a true eye opener. Liekens, originally from Belgium, is a UN goodwill ambassador for sexual health. She is extremely concerned with the lack of sexual education present in Britain, and frankly, she has every right to be. When reminiscing with my peers in a pub, we reflected on the sexual education we received. I don’t know if you also had to watch the video of the woman lying in the pool, with men swimming towards her? What a laugh. The next stage was putting the condom on the fake penis. An even bigger hoot. However, later in life the seriousness of sex becomes a reality. Now I won’t go all Austen on you and talk about romance and all of the emotions involved with sex. This isn’t about that. It’s about communicating and not being afraid to talk about sex. I mean we all talk about it anyway, we know we do. The constant innuendos and the collective amusing stories we spill at parties. But are we being slightly like Steve Carrell in the ‘Forty Year Old Virgin’ and simply pretending we know what we are talking about?
I think the most frightening aspect of ‘Sex in Class’ was that, when asked to draw a diagram of their own genitals, the girls could not. They were fifteen. They didn’t discuss whether they were sexually active or not, but with the amount of young people who become sexually active at sixteen, it’s fairly shocking that they could potentially be having sex with no clue of what was going on ‘down there’. To make up for this lack of information about their bodies, it would seem they are assuming that the boys would take the lead in sex. This certainly happened in the lessons Lieken taught. After being asked to write a fantasy piece of a sexual encounter, the girls had little input and let the boys dominate, resulting in the fantasies becoming distinctly porn-like. This raises the separate issue of the fact that boys’ primary source of information about sex – due to the faults in the education system – is porn. Lieken discusses the disillusionment that porn causes in her article on the radio times website, which is definitely worth a read. She uses the shocking statistic that 83% of teenagers have seen pornography before they are 13 years old, highlighting just how influential it has been allowed to become.
Something has to be done. Although, giving the girls homework of examining their genitals in a mirror may seem near the mark, it is essential that they learn about their own body. With all of the news coverage about feminism and such, it would seem that a vital factor is missing. Women cannot be empowered unless they know their own bodies. Without knowing their own bodies they cannot know what they want from a sexual relationship. They should not have to feel that they must let a boy lead their sexual encounters because he has ‘learnt from porn’. Equally, the boys should be made aware that pornography is not an accurate window into the world of sex. It does not show them how to be good in bed or how to treat their sexual partners. But education in schools could.
You may think this is a laughable subject. It’s common to associate being a prude with being British. This is touched on in the documentary, that the lack of communication about sex is simply us being British. Indeed, the title of this article is taken from a film that satirises our unwillingness to talk about sex. Of course, it can be a humorous topic, there’s no two ways about that; it doesn’t all have to be discussed with a dead pan face. But when Lieken’s ideas – which could be revolutionary – are giggled at by the Education MP it does make you want to say ‘oh come on now’.
Education about sex needs to be widened. Why shouldn’t teenagers learn about their bodies and have open discussions about what goes on in the bedroom? I would definitely recommend the ‘Sex in Class’ documentary to see the way Lieken approaches her lessons. It has a positive impact on both the students and the teachers. It opens up communication channels that simply weren’t there before. Sex is a part of life and talking about it cannot be avoided, so in the words of Salt ‘n’ Pepa ‘let’s talk about sex’.