As our week on Alternative Sex Education with Bristol Speak Out draws to a close, Maya Jones reflects on the success of our twitter project.
At the beginning of this week, we asked you to join our discussion on sex education by tweeting about your own experiences. With over fifty submissions, the response was overwhelming and a clear message arose: sex education in the UK is not working.
Many of the tweets we received were humorous and entirely relatable to my own experience. I remembered passing an expanding tampon in a cup around the classroom, boys squealing hysterically next door as they learnt the forbidden word ‘period’ and strange drawings of naked figures. We even had a visiting toy giraffe called Harold that left me as confused as the below user:
We can look back now, fully sex-educated, and laugh at these stories; but I can still remember being eleven, confused and scared. ‘Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) has yet to be made a compulsory feature of the UK education system,’ (Bristol Speak Out) despite the content forming a major part of most of our lives. Naturally, our findings show that many of us were forced to derive our own sex education from other, less accurate sources. Fellow classmates, teen magazines and porn all perpetuate an unrealistic and potentially damaging picture of sex, yet children are left with no other alternative.
Further tweets then suggested that not only was sex education not being treated seriously, but that it was also being taught wrong.
Users discussed how key information was missed out: there was no explanation for those starting puberty in their late teens and one user didn’t learn about after-birth until the age of nineteen. Not one of our submissions described learning about actual relationships.
Another pattern that emerged was the double standards expected of boys and girls. Everything I was taught as a girl was negative: I must hide my tampons in my bag, I must not get pregnant and female pleasure is basically non-existant. Interestingly, one user points out, ‘none of the boys were told not to be the guy who got someone pregnant.’
The most disturbing trend that surfaced from our research was that heterosexuality was always taught as the default position: ‘Girl crushes are a phase’. Schools are teaching children at a very young age that LGBT+ identities are not important or that they don’t exist. As one user summarised: ‘Gaps are as much of a problem as the hideous misconceptions we’re taught.’
Throughout our week with Bristol Speak Out, we have aimed to fill in some of these gaps and misconceptions that have sadly formed a part of everybody’s education. We are taught from a young age to be ashamed of our growing bodies and of sex. This is wrong and if the government will not realise the importance of SRE then we must take it into our own hands, through the power of social media, to educate the coming generations so that they are not left vulnerable and in the dark. Please keep tweeting your experiences @TWSSmagazine so that we can keep this dialogue going.
Photos by Chloë Maughan