Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Abolish Education: Sex Education; The Cool Teacher Problem

Whilst on the topic of education I'd also like to throw in my two cents in regards sex education. I feel a little embarrassed broaching the topic, but it is a big problem and I do feel the way it's taught is really making the problem much worse.

Essentially it's a problem of psychology. Teenagers are generally quite anxious when it comes to the issue of sex. The biggest fear being that everyone else is doing it and that they're not. Even adults fret about how many people they've slept with - as if it's some sort of indicator of how successful they are in life. So it shouldn't be surprising really that teenagers are fearful that if they don't lose their virginity they're gonna get left on life's scrapheap. Everyone wants to be normal, and if most 'normal' teenagers are having sex then you don't want to be the one person that isn't. Ultimately, it's all about being accepted socially. We all care what others think of us (sadly), and no one wants to look like a loser.

Thus, the reason why teenage boys lie and brag about sex is to impress other people, and that need to impress others is a much bigger factor in young people having sex than the natural desire to do so. This is essentially where sex education falls down. It makes it seem even more 'normal' that teenagers should be having sex. Putting even more pressure on young people to do so.

I remember being about fourteen/fifteen. At that time it seemed like a lot of people my age were having sex. Of course, that just wasn't true. The fact was most people I knew weren't having sex - and of the few that said they were, most were just lying and making stuff up. Still, at the time it did seem like a lot of other people were doing it and I wasn't. And I had the same anxieties about it, and the same fear that I was gonna get left behind by everyone.

These anxieties were made much, much worse by 'cool' teachers.

For instance, I remember teachers at the time teaching sex education by trying to make it look like they were on the same wavelength as the teenagers. Saying things like " listen, when I was your age I got up to some things as well ...I did this, I did that, yada, yada, yada." As if when they were younger they themselves were very rebellious and sexually active. They were basically trying to empathise with the pupils by making it look like they were 'normal' teenagers that had sex and had fun when they were young.

Now for me, personally, these 'cool' teachers just made things a million times worse. I remember at the time hearing this sort of stuff thinking "Oh! my God, even the teacher was having sex when he was fifteen, and he must have been really geeky and studious." It made it seem even more normal that teenagers had sex, and made me feel like even more of an unattractive loser for not doing it. The pressure to go out and have sex was immense. The fear that I was missing out on something important and being left behind enormous.

Advertisements on TV by groups that campaigned about teen pregnancies and safe sex also had the same effect. Those adverts always tried to look so cool (and still do). It would always be a bunch of really trendy teenagers at a party or something casually talking about sex - someone would mention the risk of pregnancy, a discussion would ensue about condoms. But those adverts never made me think "Ooh, when I have sex I think I'll wear a condom", they made me think "...argghhh! everyone else is having sex and I'm a sixteen year old virgin! I desperately need to do something about this!" Again they always made it seem like it was so 'normal' for teenagers to be having sex.

And again this is why sex education fails so massively. It normalises teen sex and just ups the ante even more for young people.

It would have been so much better for me and many other people if sex education had just been taught in a matter-of-fact way and if teachers had just downplayed the importance of it all. If I was a teacher teaching sex education I would just say;

"...listen, most people your age aren't having sex, I wasn't having sex when I was your age, most your friends aren't having sex, the ones that say they've had sex are probably just lying, and the few that actually have are the exception not the norm. More to the point, it doesn't matter when you lose your virginity - some people through choice go their entire life without having sex, others wait until they're married or until they meet the right person. It's really not that big a deal. And at the end of the day if you still care what people think and it really is bothering you that much, at worst you can always just lie about it ...that's what most people do when it comes to sex anyway."

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