Lets Talk About Sex: Why Sex Education in the UK Needs a Reboot

As students who have all completed our fair share of secondary school education and teenage-puberty, it’s safe to say that when it comes to sex education, there’s no one better to ask than us. The speculation over the state of sex-education in this country has grown significantly, to the point that the government released in 2017 that they were going to be making it compulsory for ALL schools in the UK to teach sex-education, not just council run schools. However, is this enough?

Yes, it’s a step in the right direction by making all primary and secondary schools include classes in healthy relationships and consent, but does that really change the quality of the education kids will be receiving? If you asked students my age a yes or no answer question on whether we received sex education, most of us would have to say yes. What that question doesn’t ask is what those lessons consisted of and how useful they were to our development. From personal experience, one of the only sex-education lessons I received was a dramatized play about what happens if you have sex before marriage; of course, the answer is for the girls, you end up pregnant, poor and alone. Not a positive or educational point of view by any means.

Moving on to a couple of years later and we got the famous ‘condom on a banana’ demonstration. This is definitely one of the most informative classes in sex education but as most people know by the time they leave school, there are so many other options for contraception available other than condoms. What a lot of young people are proposing is that teachers provide information to teenagers about ALL of the options available to them in order to have sex safely (radical, I know), otherwise the outcome is a bunch of teenagers unable to buy condoms in a shop because they’re too embarrassed and having unsafe sex anyway.

Moreover, conversations about sexual health centres are about far more than just contraception, it would mean that teenagers would be properly educated about STI symptoms and testing, and what to do if they find themselves in the situation of an unwanted pregnancy or the victim of sexual assault. Furthermore, the current syllabus does not include homosexual relationships and homosexual sexual health, ignoring a whole group of teens who might be struggling to explore their options.

As recorded by the FPA, they found that the median age for heterosexual intercourse amongst young people is 16 years old and 17.5 for homosexual intercourse, and for 16-19-year olds only 57% use contraception. Moreover, they found that there were 7,123 conceptions in girls under the age of 16, with 61% of them ending in abortion. How can we expect young people to use contraception if they don’t know what’s available to them or where to get it? This is about more than just sex, it’s about safety.

The current state of sex education for teens in the UK is removing their rights to an education about their own bodies and is in turn, preventing them from protecting themselves. The stigma surrounding conversations about sex is far more sinister than people realise and whilst it can be uncomfortable, it can save teens a world of stress in a time of their lives that is already stressful enough. What we are asking for here is not for teachers to encourage teenage sexual exploration, but to equip future generations with the necessary tools to keep themselves, and people they care about safe. Is that really too much?