To test my theory, I spent two weeks in a Lancashire secondary school teaching 15- to 16-year-old boys and girls a sex education course modelled on classes taken in Holland. Our approach differs on two levels. First, we’re very open. Even when we feel uncomfortable discussing sex, we push ourselves to do it. Secondly, sex education covers the joys of sex as well as its potential dangers.
The plan in Britain is for sex and relationship lessons to be compulsory in state primary schools. It’s a good first step, but you need to go further. I’d like to see a GCSE introduced, and the Government thinking about the content of what you teach young people.
Sex education shouldn’t be just about averting risk. Of course students need classes on STIs and unwanted pregnancy, but they also need to learn about sexual pleasure.
Admittedly, some of my teaching methods were regarded as unconventional by my British colleagues. I arrived with a bag of props, invited students to get to know their bodies better and asked them to write a story featuring an ideal sexual scenario — rewriting a porn scene to focus on consent and giving female characters a voice. Initially the girls in the class struggled to express themselves. They didn’t like the way the boys spoke about sex, but online porn had made them think they had no option but to accept it.
Of course, it’s not all down to schools. Parents should broach the subject of sex as soon as their children can talk. I have two teenage daughters and when they were younger we’d watch Bob the Builder and I’d say, “How do you think Bob feels about Wendy? What would they do if they were in love?” You don’t have to comb over the details, just demonstrate that you’re happy to be open.
Sex education is not an optional extra to be awkwardly bumbled through by teachers and students. When taught properly, it can change lives.