Let’s talk about sex, baby…

March 10, 2011

Of all the papers I expected to be outraged by the plans to teach sex education to children as young as five, it was no surprise to find it was the Mail getting its (I’m certain capacious) knickers in a twist in this article by Prof. Brenda Almond, who teaches philosophy at the University of Hull.

In the article, Professor Almond makes a number of points. Firstly, that teaching young children about sex will only make them want to try it. Second, that responsibility for teaching children about sex should lie with parents and not the state, who already do too much, and thirdly that children will be emotionally damaged by such early exposure to the concept of sex.

A number of things stood out (tehehe…) from the article. The idea that school children are “positively bombarded with sex education” seems a little rich to me. I may not be a spot-inflicted blazer-wearer anymore, but school was not that long ago. I remember three lessons in total. One of which focused more on asking the teacher questions like: “what happens if you get stuck?”, rather than any pertinent information. At no stage did we actually get to handle condoms.

The second thing that really struck me was where Professor Almond warns: “It’s well established that over-exposure to pornography desensitises an individual, and I’m convinced that too much sex education could have a similarly damaging effect on children.”

Yet, surely this is what she wants? Children who are desensitised to sex will treat it as what it is, rather than making, as the author seems to want, a BIG DEAL out of it, where children have to have “a talk” with their parents who 1) may not know all the facts about STIs, sexual health, etc, 2) may be less open minded about other forms of sexual interaction, or 3) won’t say anything at all.

God knows my parents would have been mortified to have talked to me about sex.

As for emotionally damaging children, that really is nonsense. This idea presupposes a hideously outdated notion that sex is a Bad Thing, and that knowledge of it is somehow dirty and corrupting. The truth about sex is no more corrupting than knowledge of gravity or times tables. The more kids know, and the more it is taught like any other subject, the less corrupting it will be.

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