Monday, 13 October 2014

Member @leonjward: on why inclusive SRE is vital

Brook member, Leon Ward, has written this article. Timely given last weeks statistics on young gay men and HIV.

Good quality and compulsory sex education is the first step we need to take to ensure young people in the United Kingdom can make informed choices when they are getting jiggy between the sheets. But, once that's done, what is the next step?

For me, as a young gay man it is to then ensure different forms of sexual relationships are covered. In a time where we celebrate the fantastic achievement of equal marriage, there are still hundreds of thousands of LGBT+ children and young people who remain clueless about sex. Now, it may seem obvious which piece of Lego goes where, but let me tell you, I, like many before me, predominantly learnt about sex from porn - I developed an understanding that every gay man had to ‘participate in full anal sex, like, all of the time.’ Now, obviously, that is not true. But, how, at 14/15/16 was I supposed to know that?

At school, I learnt how to put a condom on which was useful and hilarious as the lovely school nurse in her petite frame and meek voice tried to tell us the instructions over tidal waves of giggling. But, I was never told of the various ways in which gay people explore their bodies and sexual limits. I had no idea all forms of ‘straight foreplay’ apply between two gay men or, indeed, the risks of not using a condom.

Now, part of me thinks that is exactly the point - you're supposed to 'explore' and discover what feels good, safe and comfortable; which is something we all continue to do as we progress through our sexual rollercoasters both as individuals and as part of a relationship, your ‘friends with benefits’ or with the occasional one nighter. But, I, like many of my gay peers would have appreciated a bit of guidance/sensible information.

Fundamentally, and irrespective of sexuality, the issue here is about children and young people being empowered to make choices they are happy with. That is impossible to do when you feel your choices are restricted to going all the way or not. Rather, sometimes we feel 70% 'yes' and we'll go so far, but we won't go all the way, at other times, we want to just the run the entire field track and skip all the getting-to-know-you warm ups, and sometimes, we want to roll over and sausage roll ourselves in our duvets whilst being spooned.

All of those are choices, but for some people they discover that those choices are available to us all when it’s too late. Leaving it to pure discovery has its risks. Young people grow up feeling insecure, nervous and frightened and this is particularly intensified when you feel even more marginalised because everyone is talking about 'normal' sex; and you feel that doesn’t apply to you. It isn't about segregating young sexual minorities and teaching them separately but it's about approaching sex ed in a wholesome manner and covering it all, for everyone.

Sex shouldn't make you feel frightened (although I think there is almost unanimous agreement that the first time is terrifying because of all the 'what if they don't like my....' questions.) it should make you feel comfortable, satisfied and relieved. Relieved both physically and emotionally, relieved that you made a choice about what you wanted to do, which resulted in having a good and safe time.

We will continue to betray young people if we do not make it compulsory for schools to teach a full and explosive curriculum on sex - let's not leave it to shoddy porn actors, but let's embrace sex as part of our every day (if you're lucky) lives and desensitise ourselves to it so that the classroom and subsequently the bedroom and the home become a safe places to explore, discover and go wild.

Until then, spread this article and support Brooks sex positive campaign on Twitter: @BeSexPositive

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I'm on @Leonjward - let me know your thoughts.

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