Monday, 9 June 2014

It's not just about condoms.

When he was five my son came home from school with a letter telling me he was going to be having sex education lessons. Wondering exactly what they were going to teach my tiny weeney little boy I went into school in advance to watch the dvd they were showing.

It was nothing really, it just told them that mummy and daddy have different body parts and you need to have both to make a baby. It then told them that we may be different from one another but difference is good. I remember thinking my son would probably sit in front of it thinking “I’m going to be a fire engine when I grow up” or something equally as random and unrelated to the DVD.

I believe that at some point in his school career though he will get some “proper sex education.”   Our schools quite rightly tell our children that if they have sex without using a condom they can end up with babies and sexually transmitted diseases.

But sex and relationships are so intertwined why don’t schools teach our children what a healthy relationship looks like? If we can tell children that if you have sex without a condom you’ll probably get pregnant why can’t we tell them that if you have sex without respect you’ll probably get hurt?

In a country that speaks to girls about sexual relationships from the age of 5 why is it that 25% of those girls grow up to be trapped in abusive relationships? In a country that speaks to boys about sexual relationships from the age of 5 why is it that so many of those boys grow up to be abusers?

I’ve always believed we should talk to children about love and respect, about what a healthy relationship looks like. I’ve always thought that if we teach our young girls to demand respect from their sexual partners, if we build their self-esteem and self-confidence and teach them that they can say ”yes” safely but they can also choose to say “no” then we’ll have a much bigger impact on the rate of unwanted pregnancies which the UK seems to lead the rest of Europe in.

But now I also think we need to be teaching girls about the red flags of domestic violence. I look back at the beginnings of my relationship and in retrospect see so many red flags, right from day one, that should have rung alarm bells, and I wonder if I’d been taught those lessons would I have spotted them and got out sooner?

I’m a bit stubborn and when I was 19 I liked to think I knew best so there’s a chance I wouldn’t have. But maybe I would. Maybe other girls would get out quicker if they knew what to look for….

And before all my feminist friends tell me off, we also need to educate boys about abuse. By teaching girls what to expect from a healthy relationship, and what an unhealthy relationship looks like we will better equip them to escape abuse. But educating boys not to abuse is the only way to eradicate abuse.

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