“Sexual health is a taboo subject. In schools, we are taught the barebones of reproduction, sexual health and menstruation. In my experience, boys and men are still incredibly uncomfortable at any mention of the word ‘period’, and I would be lying if I hadn’t had conversations with a number of women explaining to them that condoms are to prevent STDs as much as they are for contraception.
In failing to teach young adults – most of whom inevitably will at some point get tangled up in the world of sexual relationships (whether that be discovering they do or don’t enjoy them) – we are relying on them to magically teach themselves this essential knowledge, and then blaming them when things go wrong. This is much like the conversation we have seen around coronavirus, where young people are now suddenly being blamed for the rise in the virus, whilst not getting any specialised or targetted communication from government about how to stay safe.
Not only this, but the holistic lack of education surrounding sexual health disproportionately affects certain groups who time and time again are failed by our education system. Women in particular, for example, will always be worse off when young people experience poor sexual education – not only in the gaps left out of the education, but also in the systemically sexist manner in which sexual education is taught. The focus on biology and pregnancy often emphases certain sexual acts whilst minimising others which are an essential part of health sexuality for girls and women. This leaves young women thinking that their health and wellbeing are just not as important as those of men.
If we are able to teach English and Science and all the other subjects kids learn at school, why do we find it so hard to teach sexual education, and to teach it well? Sexual health is incredibly easy to maintain and celebrate, if only we made it more of a priority.”
Joana, 19. Read more from Joana here.