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Contrary to popular beliefs, sex education classes are not only held for high school students, but they are also needed by people of all ages – from young children who are explained in simple terms the ideas of consent and refusal, privacy and bodily boundaries, to adults who learn to communicate with a partner and fill in the gaps in knowledge gained in childhood and adolescence.
By one of the definitions, sex education teaches about relationships, emotional, social, and physical aspects of adulthood, sexuality, and sexual health. Such education should provide children and young people with information, skills, and positive values in order to build a secure relationship, enjoy their sexuality, and be responsible for their health.
History Of Sex Education In Schools
The world’s first sex education developed from practical necessity – the fight against sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies (especially among teenagers). One of the first countries where sex education was introduced was Sweden – back in the 30s of the last century, the well-known sociologists Gunnar and Alva Myrdal, who studied low-income families, proved that they need sex education to improve their quality of life as well as affordable housing. They were led to this conclusion by the fact that in such families, as a rule, there were many children, and parents would be glad not to give birth to them more – but did not know anything about the methods of family planning.
Then the views of scientists were considered controversial, but after a couple of decades, their conclusions began to be applied to all segments of the population.
In 1956, compulsory sex education classes were introduced into the Swedish school curriculum, and in 1964 school children were no longer told that sex outside of marriage was unacceptable.
The Swedish sex education system is still considered the most progressive and today includes a discussion of very different aspects of close relationships between people and everything that can affect them, including talking about alcohol, discussing gender issues and students’ ideas about their own bodies. Swedish sexuality education was again actively discussed last year, when the Swedish video on the penis and vagina, intended for children 3–6 years old, became viral.
Prohibition doesn’t work
With an enormous amount of information sources and endless opportunities on the internet, teenagers are moving further on this topic. Against the background of such discoveries, teachers think of them as “dinosaurs”, and it is easier for parents to avoid sex topics.
However, it should be remembered that students are not so good at analyzing unstructured information and fact-checking. But physiology does not stop, teens are beginning to realize that there are changes, and it is crucial that adults be close, help structure the general information, and psychologically accept themselves as new ones. The sign of adulthood that teens are so eager for is not just empowerment, but also the need to take responsibility for their activities and inactions.
Along with advanced sex education programs, there are others that are common in selected conservative countries in Europe and some US states.
They largely repeat the very first sex education programs developed before the sexual revolution and argue that children should not know anything about sex – for their own peace and security.
Unfortunately, such programs have the exact opposite effect, and this is best illustrated by American studies: it is in the conservative states that adolescents begin to have sex early, are poorly protected, and are more likely to become pregnant. The same is shown by studies of Catholic Northern Ireland, where sex education is poorly developed and abortion is prohibited by law. The same can be said of Orthodox Romania, one of the most religious countries in Europe, where for every thousand girls aged 15-19 years, there are 35 pregnancies.
A systematic approach is always better
In many countries, especially countries with strong religious backgrounds, sexual education is a prerogative of parents. Mostly, it means that children don’t receive any sexual education, because these topics are uncomfortable for parents and they don’t know how to organize the process correctly. We cannot blame parents — often, they just stumble upon kids’ questions and don’t know how to answer not to lie and not to go too deep into the topic. Parents are not sexologists or sexual educators, they don’t have this system in their heads, and, most probably, their parents also didn’t talk about sex with them. This is why leaving it within the family is not the best option. What parents can and should do, is to make sure that their children receive sexual education not from some fantastic talks with peers or the internet, but from professionals. If schools in the region don’t offer such services, it is a good idea to address a specialist privately. It may help to prevent lots of trouble teenagers tend to get into years later.