Why are you surprised the young are learning about sex from porn?

Relationships and sexuality education curriculum used in schools needs serious overhaul

My generation are visual learners and so it makes sense some would feel watching pornography is an ideal way to learn. Photograph: iStock

My generation are visual learners and so it makes sense some would feel watching pornography is an ideal way to learn. Photograph: iStock

 

The healthy sexual relationships report published this week by Youth Work Ireland was disappointing and disheartening. However, it wasn’t a shock.

Most of the findings were in line with what I have experienced. I suppose it just stung me to see it there in print.

The fact is that young people are not finding parents or teachers useful sources of information about healthy sexual relationships. The relationships and sexuality education programme taught in schools isn’t working, so young people are looking elsewhere for this education.

But how can one in five young people believe pornography is a useful source of information about sex? My generation are visual learners; it makes sense that some would feel watching pornography is an ideal way to learn.

Our schools are our greatest teachers, and perhaps tackling this subject in a relaxed, informal manner that still has responsible adults is the best solution going forward

Considering the fact that there is such a distinct lack of other sexual education resources to learn from, it seems young people are going about their education in their own way, and that includes using porn to learn.

Untrusted sources

It’s not just porn either – 89 per cent of the young people surveyed say that they trust their friends to inform them. While this is all well and good, it is a worry as their friends may be getting their sex education from untrusted sources such as porn.

Having these conversations with your children isn’t going to just teach them about pornography; they’re going to teach your children how to be mindful, critically engaged, empathetic, and self-aware. Photograph: Getty Images
"We need to talk about sex. We don’t learn enough about boundary setting, consent, sexual health, victim blaming, rape culture, body positivity or LGBT+ sexualities. These conversations about sex are necessary. Now, more than ever." File photograph: Getty Images

The report found that 60 per cent of young people would trust youth workers to deliver information concerning healthy sexual relationships. This makes sense. I know I’d feel 10 times more comfortable talking about sex at meetings with my youth worker than in a classroom setting.

Belfast rape trial

The recent Belfast rape trial opened a lot of eyes that have been closed for a very long time. The way the nation responded to the trial was painful to see. I saw victim blaming become the norm among my friends, my peers, my elders, random people at the deli counter.

I cannot imagine the triggering agony that people went through during the constant rehashing of the case.

No wonder 42 per cent of those surveyed didn’t feel confident that good help and supports are available in their locality for someone who has experienced inappropriate sexual behaviour. The lack of resources and supports needs to change; but frankly, in order for that change to happen, there needs to be monumental change in attitudes and behaviours towards sexual assault.

Perhaps the relationships and sexuality education curriculum worked 20 years ago, but today it needs a serious overhaul

We need to talk about sex. We don’t learn enough about boundary setting, consent, sexual health, victim blaming, rape culture, body positivity or LGBT+ sexualities. These conversations about sex are necessary. Now, more than ever.

They need to be had in schools, in workplaces, over coffee with your friends. Most importantly, they need to include everyone. That means perspectives of every kind you can imagine. Without these conversations we are failing. Big time.

Cringe with embarrassment

I don’t want to cringe with embarrassment at the prospect of having to talk about healthy sexual relationships and all the things they involve. I don’t want to to shy away from talking about tackling and dismantling rape culture.

One solution could be an overhaul of the relationships and sexuality curriculum in schools. It seems like whenever these topics are brought up, we immediately hand it over to schools. Our schools are our greatest teachers, and perhaps tackling this subject in a relaxed, informal manner that still has responsible adults is the best solution going forward.

Perhaps the relationships and sexuality education curriculum worked 20 years ago, but today it needs a serious overhaul. Also, parents have a important role to play here as well. Just as the points system and the Junior Certificate needed change, so does our approach to sex education.

It doesn’t touch on any of the issues so important for young people. Young people need to know what consent is and know how to respect it. We need to know that boundaries are rules, not guidelines. And – despite what some may say – rules are not made to be broken.

Deborah Fakeye (17) is a member of Youth Work Ireland’s National Youth Action Group

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