Who remembers sex education at school? I do (it is permanently etched onto my frontal lobe). We were given a book in year eight with a well-thumbed page showing a cross section of sexual intercourse which looked more like a ham sandwich with legs than the beautiful act of love. We were subjected to Mrs Cooper rolling a condom onto a banana and telling us how not to get the clap while we desperately tried not to think about her and Mr Collins from the Geography department in the throes. It was all very biological and about a million miles away from fumbles behind the science block and heated late-night conversations on MSN messenger (RIP) with that guy from period 4 maths. Consent, emotion, violence, respect, and maturity were never mentioned - and yet, how much more important are they to us in adult relationships than the mechanics of 'what goes where' are?
Our first sexual experiences and relationships have an enormous impact on the sexual relationships we have for the rest of our lives. Many of us start learning about consent, sexual violence and the emotional side of sex long after we have already made mistakes as teenagers, who often hurtle, hormones abounding, into relationships unequipped with anything but the knowledge of (vaguely) where to put which body part. The issue of consent is rarely, if ever, brought up either by schools, who focus on biology, or by parents who blithely hope that their child's first sexual experience will not be for another 20 years.
Consent is more complicated than yes and no, and studies have found that "just say no" is unhelpful, as consent is most often established through non-verbal communication or coercion. Conversely when non-consent was expressed, the word "no" is rarely used (rather phrases such as "I've got to get home" were used - known as indirect verbal refusals).
Research by Women's Aid has found that almost one in five 16-18 year olds were unsure or didn't believe that slapping someone counted as domestic violence. Research by YouGov concluded that one in three 16-18 year old girls have experienced unwanted sexual contact at school and one third of 13-17 year olds have experienced sexual violence in a relationship. I believe sex education, although not responsible for these statistics, could do a lot to tackle the causes.
However, sex education in schools is, according to Ofsted, a cause for concern and of poor overall quality, and it is little wonder that YouGov found such poor results amongst teenagers. Improved sex and relationships education in schools would help set the tone for better teenage and adult relationships. When 43% of teenage girls believe that it is acceptable for a boyfriend to be aggressive towards his girlfriend (NSPCC study), the education of consent, pressure and violence is becoming vital for young teenagers.
Stella Creasy, MP for Walthamstow and Shadow Home Affairs Spokesperson, has tabled a motion, New Clause 20 to the Children and Families Bill, to make sex and relationship education a compulsory part of the national curriculum, separate to biological sex education. She believes that delivering high quality sex and relationship education to both boys and girls will help teenagers to overcome the cultural and social pressures of sex, and to establish a zero tolerance approach to violence in relationships. On 11th February parliament will vote on New Clause 20. To find out more and information on writing to your MP, visit: obruk.wordpress.com/.../lets-teach-the-children-well-5-days-to-put-sexual-consent-into-the-national-curriculum/
You can also add your support to the campaign with the tag #Yes2NC20 on social media.