You may or may not know this but almost a month ago now Conservative MPs voted against plans to make SRE (sex and relationship education) compulsory in schools. In other words they voted against making teaching pupils about LGBT+ issues, the importance of consent, online sexual content, as well as the emotional and social aspects of sex and relationships compulsory. I know all schools tackle SRE differently; some cover a wide range of topics in an inclusive manner regarding religion and the LGBT+ spectrum. But at the same time some schools will only teach it from a biological point of view.
I myself experienced the latter. In year 6 all the girls in my year sat together in a small room with our head of year and the biology teacher; we discussed (and when I say discussed I mean they spoke, we listened and were too embarrassed to ask any questions) periods, body changes, and how we might start “seeing boys differently”. That was it until year 9, when we had one lesson in which we were shown a presentation showing symptoms of different STDs, shown how to put on a condom, then given condoms which were promptly taken off us. Honestly, I still don’t know why they bothered giving them out in the first place. In fact, there is a lot I still don’t know regarding SRE full stop!
I’m not the only person who feels this; Barnardo’s children’s charity recently conducted a survey with over 1,000 children aged 11-15 and found that seven out of ten pupils wanted age-appropriate SRE to be made compulsory and that they would feel safer if this were the case.
It baffles me how this is still a problem that the Government have yet to provide a solution for. SRE is incredibly important, it has a fundamental foundation in everybody’s life. I had tried to find some petitions to include in case you, like myself, wanted to do something to try and help, however I wasn’t able to find any that were open. Instead I wanted to recommend two books and two YouTube channels that I think are amazing at teaching, in an accessible way, everything to do with sex and relationships!
Girl Up by Laura Bates
This book tackles almost every issues surrounding what it’s like being a young woman and growing up in this media driven era; with a focus on both the emotional and social impacts of sex and relationships as well as some practical and biological aspects. Although this book is primarily targeted towards female readers, I think that everybody should read it: girls, boys, parents, brothers, sisters, even the dogs! Everyone will come away learning something new and important. Okay, maybe not the dogs.
Her YouTube Channel doesn’t solely focus on SRE but with videos such as ‘Do I Look like a Slut?, ‘What I wish I was taught about sexual health’, and her series ‘The Hormone Diaries’ it’s fair to say she’s right in calling herself a “self-taught expert”. Hannah is so inclusive and often collaborates for interesting discussions regarding SRE. Definitely check out her Sex & Relationships playlist!
This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson
This book is intended to be a sex and relationship education book, especially focusing on all aspects of the LGBT+ Spectrum. It handles topics such as biology, prejudice, porn, and the issues of the prescription of labels. What I think this book does very well is talk about being part of the LGBT+ community, and how anybody of any gender and orientation can struggle with the religion and identity. A real SRE Handbook!
Laci is known as the ‘sex-ed queen of YouTube’ and often speaks at schools and events regarding SRE and how YouTube and social media are fantastic resources for our generation. According to the NY Times Laci’s videos have been viewed “a combined 131 million times”. Any question you’ve ever had about SRE has been answered in one of Laci’s 162 videos, so go check her out!
I do believe that this is an issue that we can find a solution for in the near future. People all over the country are speaking up about this, and sooner or later we will be listened to. Because, after all, sex and relationships are terrifying on their own, so why add a lack of understanding to the mix?
If you want to read more you can start here!