What topics should sex education cover?

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What details do children these days need to know? And how much freedom should headteachers have to decide? The need to improve sex and relationship education in school and at home comes as the number of sexual assaults experienced by children and teenagers from adults and their peers continues to rise. Young people must be taught the importance of healthy and stable relationships, and what exploitative relationships look like. We all know that children, teenagers and young adults experience sexual harassment and violence, and online they are exposed to images and content which can be very disturbing and addictive. Hence, it is vital that schools and parents give children the information they need about sex, consent and healthy relationships.

Sex Ed varies from family to family and school to school, so people’s experiences are different. Does sex Ed really fulfill its course name? most of the time, no it does not. It is important to discuss sex and relationships in detail so teens and young adults can make better choices, and feel comfortable with their bodies and the way they work.

Below are some topics that should be covered in sex Ed:

Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse happens when a child or teenager is forced, or enticed, to take part in sexual activities. No matter the level of violence, and regardless of the child’s awareness or agreement to what’s happening, it is sexual abuse. It may involve physical contact such as touching a child’s genitals or private parts for the abuser’s sexual pleasure, making a child touch someone else’s genitals, playing sexual games or having sex by putting objects or body parts inside the mouth, anus or vagina of a child. Sexual abuse also includes things that don’t involve contact, such as showing a child pornography, encouraging a child to take part in the making of sexual images, watching sexual acts, or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways. Abuse can take place in person or online, through internet based technology or a website your child uses.

The importance of early education on sexual abuse in the home and at school cannot be over-emphasized. It is important that you teach your children about sexual abuse because the strength of the predator is in the ignorance of the child.

What the hymen really is

The hymen is described mainly as this thick wall of skin that can only be broken when you lose your virginity. There’s this misconception that the hymen is like a bubble that disappears into nothingness the minute it is breached. But in reality, the membrane that makes up the hymen is stretchy, so most hymens that are considered broken are just stretched. It’s more like tissue with a hole in it that can be stretched by various sorts of objects. There are a thousand ways a girl/woman can stretch the hymen, most of them not including sexual intercourse. In fact, a lot of young girls stretch their hymens before they even begin to think about having sex. Blood on the sheets on the wedding night was thought to signify that sexy times occurred, and the woman it occurred with was, in fact, a virgin instead of a slut. But if anything, blood after first-time sex has less to do with a hymen and more to do with a lack of lubrication and a seriously sore vagina, according to experts. 

Sex is not a reflection of your value as an individual

But to get to this place, we need to remove sex from the pedestal as a badge of either honor or shame it has been placed in our culture. As long as boys are shamed for not succeeding in getting laid and girls are shamed for succeeding in getting laid too often, then boys will continue to have an incentive to manipulate girls into situations where consent is ambiguous and girls will continue to have an incentive to manipulate boys into situations where they feel unworthy or powerless.

Nobody wins in this arrangement. Everybody gets frustrated. People lie. People get raped. And it’s no coincidence that sexual violence (and divorce) is on the rise in countries like ours where this culture of sexual shame persists. When your value as a human being is being judged based on the sex you’re having or not having or the marriage that you have or don’t have, then it’s easy to feel justified in saying and doing some messed up stuff to people of the opposite gender to get your way.

Only have sex with someone if you want to

Normally, sex Ed mostly covers the “sexual pressures” young people face from strangers, but not what to do when you’re dating and you’re not ready to have sex or when the person you’re already having sex with wants you, and you absolutely aren’t in the mood at that time. Consent is largely left out.  Even if you’ve had sex a thousand times with this person, you have every right to say no if you don’t feel like doing it. You don’t have to make excuses. Or feel guilty. Your body is yours and you can have sex whenever you feel like it (if your partner is happy to as well, of course).

All personal desires are valid just as all rejections of personal desires by another are valid. Both should be respected. It’s as simple as that. Also, enthusiasm is key.

“Ready” is subjective

What does “ready” really mean? There’s a lot of pressure in secondary school to have a boyfriend, to have sex, to make out, etc. As a result, many young people go along with what their peers are doing because they feel that is what is expected of them. They think that sex is what you do when you date someone, so they go with it even when it’s really not what they want. However, if you feel ready, then you feel ready. Abstinence is a choice too. Really think about your body and your choices, especially not in relation with what the guy wants and the “relationship”. When the time comes, use protection.

Domestic Abuse

Just as educating children about sexual abuse is important, it is equally important to educate all young people, from the earliest age possible, about domestic abuse. It should be made clear to all children that rage, especially extreme rage, in relationships is very dangerous. People always say it is time to leave after the very first punch because, no matter what they think, no matter what the abuser says afterwards, it absolutely will happen again: the first punch is just the start and they need to leave right there and then. However, watch out for rage, do not ignore rages at all and keep your distance once you detect this so that the first punch doesn’t happen at all. Too many excuse extreme anger and the first punch and choose to stay. Remaining in the relationship gives the abuser the green light they need. That is the message that a victim sends out. As the first punch comes and the punches keep coming for a second time, and again and again, s/he will become weaker and accept what is happening. If it’s happening at home and there are children witnessing such incidents be sure they will think it’s the norm as well.

We simply must get a clear message out that abuse within relationships, physically or psychologically, is wrong and that such relationships are destructive and damaging. We need to start delivering this message as soon as children reach school age.

All bodies are unique. Don’t be ashamed of yours

Puberty comes with a lot of changes in the body. There’s a lot of confusion and shame associated with these changes, mostly because teenagers don’t really understand what is “normal” and what isn’t, and they aren’t taught to see these changes in a positive light. The truth is that the body is constantly changing, so it’s important to understand that the perfect female and male bodies are non-existent.

There are a ton of birth control options out there

There are many options besides condoms and pills. Make an appointment with a doctor so s/he can explain what everything is, and you can decide what’s good for you.

If you or your partner have had sex before with someone else, get tested

Because you can never be too safe.

If a guy refuses to use a condom, do not waste your time with him

This is very important. It is, in fact, non-negotiable.

Oftentimes, the language boys use to discuss sex and sexual acts is degrading and shows a lack of understanding of consent and the mutual respect required to have meaningful sex. Girls on the other hand, are not taught enough about respecting their bodies and often don’t understand when they’re being manipulated in relationships and sexually. Openness and frankness from early on is quite important and creating an environment where young people feel safe to discuss issues about sex and relationships at home and in school would make a world of difference. What was your sex and relationship education like? What other topic do you think should be here? Use the comment section.

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