Words by Madieson (she/her), 24 WA
The piece ‘Madie’s Top 5 Takes on … Safe Sex Education in Schools.’ may be difficult to read or triggering to some readers. Readers in need can seek support from the following services.
Over the years, there has been a lack of progress in the spreading of accurate and reliable safe sex information to young people. Growing up in a small town where there was no discussion around safe sex education had significant impact on my future relationships. It really affected my self-esteem and confidence. Due to my own lack of experience around safe sex education, I think it is important to build everyone’s capacity and understanding to help empower them to have safe, healthy relationship and experiences. The ideas that I am sharing today are focused on what safe sex education is like, what areas people want more information on, and how we can – and should – include these in the curriculum.
We still have a lack of sex education in school.
When it comes to safe sex education in schools, it appears that not much has changed in the last 20 years. Working in a school currently, I have not learnt much about safe sex, indicating that there still needs to be more education in schools for teenagers. Although there is more awareness and information in the mainstream media, this information is not necessarily accurate, nor is it always coming from the most reliable sources.
In the Instagram poll that I used to gather data about safe sex education, people from 18-35 years of age indicated that their safe sex education was inadequate. Additionally, there were no clear trends relating to age to indicate that young people were receiving better sex education.
We need to begin educating young people at an earlier age.
Over the years, the age of puberty onset in boys and girls has become significantly younger. For girls,’ puberty can begin from 8-13 years of age, and for boys from 9-14 years of age. With these early ages for puberty onset, if we do not begin discussing safe sex education in Years 7/8, these children will be reaching the end of puberty unaware of the changes in their bodies and not knowing what to do with these new changes.
It is also incredibly important that we educate young people of all ages about consent. It is never too young to begin the discussion around consent. Young people and children are often victims of sexual crimes/violence. By educating young people about consent, how to say no, and what to do if someone does not listen, we are empowering them to take charge of their lives and the actions they can take if they need.
We want more education around queer sex and more representation around the LGBTQIA+ community in sex education.
Schools need to move away from focusing on only sex for heterosexual people in sex education and include discussions and education around queer sex and what this looks like – ensuring the education around this also has a focus on safe queer sex practices.
By educating students about different sexualities and sexual and gender identities, we normalise these identities and sexualities. This then helps high school students feel more comfortable expressing their identity and sexuality. There should be more of a focus on women’s pleasure as well – in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships.
We want more practical applications of sex education.
We want information about consent in the dating world and the dangers and effects of contraception.
It is all good and well for a teacher to educate you on the different types of hormonal contraception, but we miss so much if there is no discussion about the effect it may have on your body when you begin taking it or the risk it is placing on your body – now or in the future.
We also want more information around non-hormonal contraception methods and the option of abortions. Closely related to this is the sharing of accurate medical and anatomical information about young people’s changing bodies, as well as where they can find information about women’s health and available health services.
There is a need for more education around consent, especially with younger students and how this relates to them. Educating students about consent gives them the tools to say no and what to do if someone does not listen. Additionally, we are teaching students to respect someone’s choice to say no and the repercussions if you do not respect someone’s decision.
We can empower young people with skills for finding their own information about safe sex
One of the responses I got in my Instagram poll came from a friend who had a thorough and adequate safe sex education. When discussing this more, she said that one of the best activities they did was they had to pick a topic (around safe sex practice) and create a PowerPoint to share with the class.
This format is great, as it not only encourages the students to engage with information but also encourages them to research and explore topics comprehensively, giving them skills that they can use to find answers to future questions they may have about sex and their bodies. By sharing the information in class and coming from peers, the students are more likely to listen to what is being said and take it on board. It also may encourage them to continue educating each other as they grow.
Illustration by Aileen. You can find more of her work on Instagram @aileenngstudio