Wednesday, 29 August 2007

I went to the dentist today...

...and for most people the link between this and a blog which addresses sexual health and relationships may be tenuos - less so for me perhaps because my partner is a dentist but that is not the purpose of this post.

However, when I was a child i had some pretty grim experiences with my dentist. I always hated it and when I asked him to stop or give me a minute with a squeak or a frantic wiggle of the hand he just carried on regardless. Until this year i have had to be sedated for any treatments. After much coaxing from my partner, some self determination and patience from my suitably selected dentist today i had only my second session of treatment without sedation in 15 years.

So here is the link to relationships and sexual health - firstly our experiences when we are young will often lay the pattern for relationships and create expectations for the future. It is therefore crucial that we respect young people's developing sexuality, help them expect and want to give and get a lot from their relationships, only have sex that they choose to have and ensure their early experiences of sexual health services are good.

Second, as i have learnt from my recent dental episode, it can take a lot of reassurance, a lot of encouragement and a lot of determination to do things differently or to expect something better - for those young people who have had poor early experiences which may include abuse and harm we can help them create a new map for themselves by providing that reassurance and encouragement to foster their determination. Unless we do young people expecting too little, become adults who expect too little and they in turn become the parents of our next generation, who in turn will also expect too little from their relationships.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Lessons at the Fringe

I have just spent some time at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. We saw some fantastic stand up comedy, brilliant physical dance theatre and theatre (and of course we saw some not so fantastic). Two shows were moving - the first Stonewall, billed as one persons memory of the Stonewall riots in New York in 1969. Many of us know about the Stonewall riots and their central role in starting the gay liberation movement. Judging from the audience gasp, less of us realised that gay sexuality was finally legalised across the whole of the United States of America in 2003. And of course, it was only in 2000 that the age of consent was equalised here and let us not forget that young people who are perceived to be gay or lesbian are often teased and bullied in schools across the UK on a daily basis.

The second - a physical dance show, 'As a mother of a brown boy' was about the untimely death of a mixed race boy, killed whilst being chased by the police from a burglary scene in 2005. This superb theatre focused on the importance of identity and of feeling comfortable in our skin - an important development task for all of us, something we must help children and young people to do whatever their ethnicity, faith or beliefs, and at the heart of all good sexual health work.

If you are in Edinburgh this August, I recommend both of them.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

sometimes semantics are important

I have just been asked about Brook's view on abstinence education as a form of sex and relationships education. Abstinence education is not a form of sex and relationships education. Sex and relationships education involves the acquisition of accurate information, the development of emotional and social skills, and an exploration of values. A good curriculum brings together different legal, health cultural and religious perspectives to help children develop their own beliefs and values and to respect the right of others to have different beliefs.

Abstinence education, on the otherhand, is based on a particular set of moral beliefs that emphasises the importance of 'saving' sex until marriage and often offers inaccurate information about condoms and the transmission of sexually transmitted infections.

Sex and relationships education is about empowerment, about learning to make choices and about respect for diversity and from what I know about abstinence education, there is no evidence that it fits the bill on that front either.

Good quality sex and relationships education at home, at school and in the community, coupled with high quality young people friendly sexual health services has been shown to help young people delay sex and to use contraception and condoms when they do have sex. Abstinence education does not do that.

Sometimes semantics are simply semantic. Sometimes they are important. This is one of those times when it is right to be fussy.