24/01/2017 07:43 GMT | Updated 25/01/2018 05:12 GMT

I Want To Talk About Sex With Simon Hoare MP

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No, no, no! Let me make it clear; I have not had sex with Simon Hoare, Conservative MP for North Dorset. I shall leave that to Mrs Hoare. I want to talk about why Simon Hoare MP voted against an amendment which would make Sex and Relationships Education in schools mandatory.

It seems that behind Mr Hoare's resistance was a fear that the amendment did not afford enough protection for faith schools who oppose homosexuality. His view is that a new clause is required:

"To provide a legislative comfort blanket, for want of a better phrase, the new clause needs to include a clear statement that we are talking not about promotion, but about education, and where sex education is delivered in a faith school environment, those providing the education should not feel inhibited about answering questions such as "What is the thinking of our faith on this particular aspect of sexuality?"

I was educated in a faith school. A boarding convent school in the wilds of Essex. At fifteen, I had no idea what a clitoris was (though I'd seen it on a diagram), couldn't tell you what virginity meant, (but knew that it must be really, really important because we never prayed to Mary without identifying her as a virgin first) but had been shown the anti-abortion film, 'The Silent Scream' and knew that terminating a pregnancy was wrong and damnable.

The onset of periods meant I had to ask my mother about what was going on 'down there'. She shut the door to the sitting room and closed the lid of the piano (to save it from the distressing news about my body) before whispering an explanation.

My English teacher told us that all pornography was filthy and exploitative and used by disgusting and inadequate men.

In this faith world that I was inhabiting, there was no mention of homosexuality whatsoever.

Let's be clear about what a faith school does. It indoctrinates children. I left that school with a profound and damaging sense of shame about my body and a message that sex, of any description, was sinful.

Later, I trained as a teacher. I visited schools in the Midlands where there would be many empty seats in the classrooms. These were the seats belonging to girls of Pakistani or African origin who would be spirited abroad for weeks on end, back to the lands of their parents.

For reasons of 'cultural sensitivity' their absences were not chased up.

Things have thankfully changed now and we do challenge absence, but Mr Hoare would do well to remember that, thanks to that 'cultural sensitivity', so very similar to the religious sensitivity he now propounds, British girls were married off as teenagers to strangers in lands far away. Other British girls suffered genital mutilation.

Mr Hoare is concerned that Priests, Rabbis, Imams and the religious will feel their ideologies threatened by the imposition of sex education, that homosexuality will be 'promoted'. Thus, he has chosen to deny the thousands of children in those schools access to information which will safeguard them, reassure and educate them in this most confusing of areas.

This amounts to discrimination. It is anti-democratic.

I doubt Mr Hoare has ever had to help a teenage girl get the morning-after pill following a disastrous first sexual experience.

I doubt he's ever had to listen to a twelve year old try to explain how she has been abused by her mother's boyfriend, but not having the language to do so.

I doubt he's had to comfort a young gay man self-harming because he is ashamed of his sexuality.

Teachers and youth workers confront this damage day in, day out. Little wonder our children's mental health services are overwhelmed.

The messages we send about sex and sexuality are essential if our children and young people are to develop healthy relationships with themselves and others.

We cannot have a situation where our boys are hearing 'Grab 'em by the Pussy' from the leader of the free world and nothing from their educators.

We all need to talk about pussies, Mr Hoare.

Shame is a terrible and unnecessary concept. I have women friends whose children have never seen them naked. I have girlfriends who think female masturbation is dirty. I know a headmaster who refused to use the word 'vagina' in front of his eight year old daughter for fear of 'destroying her innocence'. Adults continue to write damaging code for our children.

As a survivor of a faith school education, I implore Mr Hoare to think not about God or the powerful religious agencies overseeing faith schools but to consider the children. They are the most vulnerable and least powerful. Their world is ever more complicated, ever more sexualised. Mandatory sex education is the only way to help them understand the messages they are receiving.

Sex is a wonderful part of our humanity. Who we do it with is a matter of personal choice. Our bodies are to be respected, loved, enjoyed and celebrated.

Come on, Simon. Grow a pair! Stand up to the tyranny of religion in schools and put an end to shame.