If it sells newspapers or gets people to click a link, it’s usually got something to do with sex. Then if you add teenagers into the mix, everyone has an opinion, especially adults who like to claim ‘they were teenagers once’.
So when I found myself reading a headline today that said, ‘Teens and sex: what’s going on in our schools,’ I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to click the link or keep scrolling. Nothing surprised me about the research, eg. those who have easier access to contraception are more likely to use it and there is a socioeconomic link to those not able to access. But I also wonder about the kinds of conversations that communities and schools with strong beliefs around sex are having.
One of the research ideas that really stood out for me was this:
“Youth development literature suggested one of the best ways to reduce teen pregnancy was by making sure young people were engaged in school and had goals for the future.”
So schools are a form of contraception? Concentrate on getting NCEA and staying in school is as good as going on the pill? Plan your career and you won’t be interested in sex? I’m confused.
Something that has changed since I started high school 30 years ago is the age most students leave school. When I went to school, most of my mates left at 15 and went to work, so they were seen as adults once they left school. Now to get into university you have to finish year 13 (7th form for anyone older than 35) so more youth are ‘adults’ at school.
I’m also still struggling to understand why shame is used as an excuse for not talking about sex. It’s just so lame in the 21st century. Teen sex happens, so how about some media focus on addressing the cultural and social assumptions, fears and beliefs that prevent open healthy experiences of sex and sexuality, rather than statistics and freaking out.
Well I’m not sure how to bring this up but sex is everywhere. I think the leap in technology has the generation gap about as wide and deep as the Grand Canyon or the Mariana trench (bit of a geography lesson on the side). Problem is parents and young people get a bit awkward talking about sex anyway, so talking about pornography is probably right up there with topics likely to induce a heart attack. Realistically the statics say 90% of boys and 60% of girls have seen porn. Now back in the day like maybe 20 years ago, people had to buy magazines or hand over their ID to a video store. These days it’s the click of a button away and with cameras these days people are sharing more and more images, including themselves (I talked about this in my other blog).
Funny thing is no-one really talks about horniness or being ‘turned on’ by stuff. I don’t think people watch pornography for the plot, drama or suspense so let’s get real, sexual urges are normal for girls and guys and everyone else in between. But porn doesn’t always show what is realistic, kind of like driving cars and street racing isn’t like it is in The Fast And The Furious.
If you have mates that are into it and you think they are about to jump in and put the foot down without realising what they might really be getting into, send them to It’s Time We Talked. It’s got stuff for young people, parents and schools to think about.
There might be a bit of a generation gap happening with technology but some things like respect, trust and support are timeless. If you are not sure and need some help you can talk to netsafe anonymously.
If you are at student at a secondary school in New Zealand there is a good chance you’ve been taught health. I really like the idea of Hauora – total well-being, our being is more than just our bodies. I remember health when I was at school but sex education will be forever etched in my mind as nothing but awkward and I’m pretty sure I came away with the impression that sex would result in some terrible disease or pregnancy or both. But what I also remember is not much was said about sexuality or gender. I think the words lesbian and gay were mentioned but that was it. But I think I was lucky to even hear that.
So there was nothing for anyone questioning gender, sexuality or even the idea that you might not be entirely sure. But there is now a great resource, it’s called Inside Out and it is free to download and use. It explains and sheds light on all those places some teachers never go, like intersex, transgender, bisexual and does it with simple straight up real people. If your school hasn’t found their way to this fantastic resource send the link to your teacher and ask them to take a look. Or ask rainbow youth to pass it on. Knowledge helps to reduce fear and ignorance and sometimes that is all some people need, a chance to ask questions and get a bit more understanding.
I know many young people who find who they are is never acknowledged or represented. My experience is that while sexuality (lesbian gay and to some extent bisexuality) is talked about transgender and intersex is not and we need to open up the conversations, let’s get this rainbow full spectrum.
Finally if you really want to test your teachers knowledge ask them what a gubernaculum is. It’s also a really great scrabble word.