Posted inHealth and Wellbeing

‘You want me to park that Big Mack Truck…’ where now?

Whenever my friends bring up our sex education, it always becomes a laughing matter. Isn’t that slightly concerning? Sure, it’s funny to laugh at how inadequate it was, and at the sheer awkwardness of the teachers who were meant to be leading by example, but it’s disconcerting all the same.

At primary school, we watched an old-fashioned DVD which contained clips that looked like they were shot on a camcorder, interviewing random teenagers on what they knew about sex. There were also some animations, one of which included two naked adults chasing each other around a bed, feather in hand. As for the period talk, all the boys were ushered out of the room whilst our male headteacher taught us about what periods, tampons and sanitary pads are, before demonstrating the latter products’ absorbency using a beaker of water. Why couldn’t the boys have stayed in the classroom? Surely it would have benefitted them to know about something that approximately half of the world’s population goes through every month.

I stand by the belief that everyone should be taught about periods – menstruators and non-menstruators alike. Better education would have prevented childish jokes (such as ‘ArE yOu oN yOuR peRioD? BeCaUsE yOu’Re rEalLy MoOdY’), prospered a more knowledgeable and understanding environment for everyone, and also removed any discomfort from non-cis-gendered students that were failed by the ignorant ‘boy/girl’ divide perpetuated in school environments.

After swapping stories with friends about the ways our different primary schools handled sex education, if they even taught it at all, it seems that our collective experience of the sex ed curriculum in the UK was rather lacking in the following respects:

-it was assumed that sex is always a consensual act 

-it was taught through an exclusively heteronormative and cis-gendered lens

-it was focused on procreation, with no mention of pleasure

In secondary school, we were shown the memorable ‘Tea Consent’ video in assembly, which is, in some respects, a fantastic tool that is easy to understand. We were not taught, however, how to say ‘no’ and how to remove ourselves from certain situations, which is arguably a more urgent lesson to teach. I wish it was widespread knowledge that people are allowed to, and should say ‘no’ if they aren’t certain about something, or if it isn’t a definite ‘yes’, because their own happiness, safety, and comfort should be the utmost priority (click here for self-defence tips, and here for ways to say ‘no’). Do not worry about upsetting someone at the expense of your own peace of mind, because if they do react disrespectfully, were they ever worth your time in the first place? 

Now for some good old LGBTQ+ commentary. The curriculum teaches that sex = penis + vagina, and yes, that is one way of going about it. There are also many, many other ways that one can have sex, and I resent the fact that the majority of us were not taught this in school, forcing us to resort to the Internet for answers. It’s a wonderful place, and has an abundance of information, but there is also the risk of finding things that are not safe for minors’ eyes, what with the rampant fetishisation of non-heterosexual relationships (especially sapphic ones). Whilst we were taught how to put a condom on a courgette to protect against STDs and pregnancy, what about dental dams? Latex gloves? If you don’t know what the aforementioned are or what they’re used for, then chances are you’ve also had a deficient sex education. Perhaps they aren’t relevant to your sexual experiences, but condoms aren’t relevant for everyone either.

The sexual education curriculum needs to be reformed in order to live up to its name and purpose of educating the adolescent population. That means being as representative as it can, so that as many people as possible are safe and prepared during their first sexual experience, if they choose to have one. 

Finally, the last thing I’ll touch on is our general anatomy (pun intended). Back in my all-girls secondary school, we had a friend who thought that we peed out of our vagina, because she thought we only had two holes down there. And even more people were unsure of the actual whereabouts of crucial anatomical parts like the vagina and clitoris. What with the clitoris being one main centre of pleasure, you’d think that more of us would know about it; we all know the stereotype of teenage boys, tired forearms and crusty socks… but where was our sexual liberation? Once again, thanks to the Internet and asking around my friends, I learned that most people with vaginas had never actually seen their own downstairs, and neither had I at that moment in time. This led to me being irritated at our so-called sex ed and how little we knew about our own bodies – how the hell are we meant to direct other people if we don’t know how to get there ourselves? Just take a look at the results of this study, which, despite its click-baitesque article title, actually displays incredible results regarding Brits’ (lack of) knowledge of the female anatomy, which should be enough to convince you that the sexual education curriculum needs some important additions. If this were to come about, hopefully when we next rap WAP, we’ll actually know where it is, and how to get one…

Cover image: Emily Perkins