Posted Tuesday, 4 March 2008 at 11:41
The fact that 39,000 girls under the age of 18 fall pregnant each year has to light up a neon question mark above the government's attitude towards sex education, and how it has been taught within our schools over the last ten years.
A survey in the Times Educational Supplement last week, revealed that two thirds of teachers think sex education should be compulsory for children as young as seven.
Since when were seven year olds sexually active?
Which seven year olds are more interested in sex than colouring and dressing up?
I spoke to a group of mixed fifteen year olds last week who had just finished a Personal Social Education (PSE) lesson. I asked them what they felt they had learnt in the lesson.
The answers were revealing.
“We were told why men need sex all the time", "what is the best position to have sex in?" - that was the teacher's ice breaker apparently! – “how to apply a condom”, and “shown a few pictures of STIs”.
I regard the way sex education is taught within schools today almost as a form of child abuse.
Every child psychologist insists that from the moment of awareness, young children are happier within boundaries.
The naughty toddler who knows he can push the boundaries or is unaware of where they are is an insecure and vulnerable one.
The position of needing to know what is right and wrong, how far you can go or not, is one which also provides teenagers with security and stability.
A world which knows no limits, in which the important choices and decisions are expected to be made by the teenager alone, is a scary one.
Children should be taught that it is wrong to have sex outside of a loving and committed relationship, and that it is wrong to have sex before you are mature, or able enough, to deal with the unintended consequences.
Sex education should provide teenagers with the tools they need to protect themselves.
Knowledge regarding STIs and pregnancy is essential; but so is empowering young people with a values based ethos which once again becomes the norm in terms of accepted behaviour.
I'm not saying that if the emphasis were changed from ‘this is how you go about having sex’ to ‘this is the difference between right and wrong’ that we would see a change of attitude towards casual sex amongst teenagers happening overnight, or that the results would be instantaneous.
However, if teachers, youth leaders, churches, teen magazine editors and anyone who, as a result of their work influenced the behaviour of teenagers, took up the same message – ‘wait until you are in a long term committed relationship before you have sex, because that is the most sensible and morally right thing to do’ - then every teenage girl who, rather than feeling she HAS to have sex because that is the accepted pattern of behaviour, will have a moral and ethical code to wrap around and protect herself with.
All the fifteen year olds I talked to were suddenly aware at that tender young age - 'why men need sex all the time' - none of them thought it was knowledge they really needed to know at fifteen.
And of their year group, the children I spoke to estimated that at least 60% had already had sex in that year.
If the liberal attitudes towards sex education which prevail today are cascaded down to seven year olds, then I have no doubt that we will see children experimenting with sex at an even younger age, and an increase in the number of teenage abortions.
I'm going to ask the question I often ask at the end of a blog.
Que beno? Who benefits?
Nadine Dorries MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA
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