My absolute favourite of these was Mary Wakefield's column in last Saturday's Independent. Now I usually am fairly tolerant of broadsheet columnists because their editors are generally cufflinked facists. But Wakefield has some rather interesting (read stupid) points to make as far as sex education in schools is concerned. I quote:
"Where's the need for sex ed in the 21st-century Britain? There's sex on movie screens, on billboards, in magazines; sex in pop songs trickling down iPod wires straight into auditory cortices of every sentient tot."
Ok, she has a point about sexual content being easily accessed, but that's as far as my agreement goes. With a culture that shifts at the pace ours does, there surely has to be the flexibility in a child's upbringing. It's just a fact of life now that children aren't as innocent as they were. They are exposed to unconventional things much earlier in life with the evolution of the family unit; divorce, same-sex marriages, step siblings. Of course it would be lovely if we could raise our kids as beautiful cherubs right up until they hit adolescence and THEN teach them how to live as an adult, but the truth is that kind of excuse just won't wash today.
I read a very interesting article in the Times, it's a long one so I'll just link it HERE. Dutch kids at the age of 12 display blase attitudes as they talk about anal sex, masturbation and the age of consent. They live in a place where the red light district isn't just a Saturday night cat-call, it's a way of life. So you'd expect there to be far more debauchery among their young, right? Wrong. They have the lowest teen pregnancy rate in Europe, with the average age of a teen losing their virginity being around 17. I don't need to remind ANYONE of the figures for Britain.
And look at the way we do things - parents would rather plonk their kids in front of Eastenders or Coronation St, where we see young actresses often portraying young mothers being glamourised in relevant awards shows with accolades going to the "sexiest soap star". I agree that parents should be wanting to protect their children from certain things, but I find myself right back at my previous point that times have changed, and I cannot stress that enough.
Children are impressionable. If they see an adult become awkward and protective at the mention of anything sexual, they are going to be even more confused about it, far more likely to avoid placing that adult in the same situation again, and god forbid they might actually want to approach a parent with a query about why they see big brother pitching a tent more often in the morning than any other time of day.
Knowledge doesn't mean action. Just because people might know how to fire a gun doesn't mean they're going to sod off and massacre a small town in rural England. Until we can sit down with children and treat them in accordance with the way our lives are led in the 2000's, there is still going to be debate on the soaring figures of teen pregnancies, STIs, and horrified broadsheet journalists' hearts breaking at the lost innocence of childhood.
Grow up, it's only sex.