Sex education/ Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Let’s talk about sex: is sex education failing us?

Sex education has been very relevant to school curriculums for years now, focusing on contraception, pregnancy and the prevention of STIs. But there are still so many common aspects of sex that are not touched upon: perhaps because there is still a societal taboo revolving around sex and the way we think about it. Whilst the topic of sex and the quirks that surround it is becoming more normalised over the years, there are still many changes that society has to make in order to break down the stigma around sex in order to show that it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

I realised the curriculum had, in a way, failed us

The Netflix show, Sex Education, has just released its second season, and has received praise for its representation of sex and the way it normalises topics in the mainstream media that aren’t necessarily covered in sex-ed curriculums. In only eight episodes, the series explores topics as broad as performance anxiety, virginity, consent, gay sex, masturbation, pleasure, and abortion, to name a few. The show has left everyone wondering: were we ever taught this at school? At least from personal experience, I wasn’t. The only sex-ed I ever received was in a stuffy science classroom aged 12. They told us how babies were made and to always wear a condom, unless we wanted to get pregnant or recieve an STI. The topic was brushed over in that one period we had on sex education, and I thought that there was nothing more to know. Of course, there was a lot more to it, and it wasn’t until I started having these experiences myself, or until I started to talk about it with my friends, that I realised the curriculum had, in a way, failed us.

The traditional idea behind sex-ed was to inform young people on how to avoid so-called social “ills”, and instead of promoting a healthy and relatable environment for students, the message it delivered was that sexual practices are shameful. In many ways, these attitudes have remained the same to this day. Sex has been portrayed in this way through several outlets, whether it be in the media or in school curriculums. This lack of education, and miscommunication about sex has created a toxic environment when it comes to the topic surrounding it. As cleverly portrayed in Sex Education, issues like slut-shaming, scares over the spread of STIs, and the humiliation of having an abortion amongst other things, are all due to the lack of knowledge on these matters. But the way in which the show deals with bringing these topics to light does something that sex-ed curriculums have never been able to properly achieve, and that is the normalisation of sex and breaking down the stigma around it.

It tackles taboos in a way that is relatable, heartwarming and non-judgemental

A lot has changed when it comes to sex-ed, and yet a staggering amount has stayed the same. Many young people have been critical of RSE, the government’s educational scheme on relationships and sex, claiming it is outdated and lacking in many crucial aspects surrounding sex. The RSE curriculum has not been reviewed since 2000, but greater openness in society, which has been achieved through shows like Sex Education, has led the British government to update this scheme by September of 2020, and it will include the addition of three new subjects to its guidelines.

Netflix’s Sex Education has done just what curriculums behind actual sex-ed have failed to do. It tackles taboos in a way that is relatable, heartwarming and non-judgemental. It has gone beyond the prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, and it has looked at particular cases that apply to different people. This is exactly what I hope the government has in store for its review of RSE, as the freedom to talk about all things sex is long overdue.

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