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S is for Relationships

January 6, 2012

aartwork - Brad Tuttle Esq.

dev·il’s advocate (dᵉv’ᵊlz) n. One who argues against a cause or position, not as a committed opponent but simply for the sake of argument or to determine the validity of the cause or position.

devilsaardvark   (a:d’va:k’) n. As devil’s advocate, only with a much larger nose.

Welcome to 2012 and you might have, quite reasonably, thought that we were moving away from the dark ages. Unfortunately, if you follow the news, or Twitter, or have a vague-or-better idea of what’s going on in the world at large, you might also, quite reasonably, be fooled into thinking you’d woken up in 1952 instead of 2012. But I’m going to skilfully sidestep the racist bigotry that has surrounded the Stephen Lawrence, Luis Suarez and Diane Abbot cases recently and concentrate on another kind of bigotry that might have escaped your radar. And no, ‘S is for Relationships’ is not a typo.

Nadine Dorries is the Conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire and, on the 20th Jan, Parliament hears the second reading of her Sex Education (Required Content) Bill.

According to its purpose is to “require schools to provide certain additional sex education to girls aged between 13 and 16; to provide that such education must include information and advice on the benefits of abstinence from sexual activity; and for connected purposes.

It is a Private Members’ Bill, under the ten minute rule (although reducing that by 9 minutes and 59 seconds would still be giving it too much credence). In a nutshell, the bill, if passed, will mean that teachers MUST deliver abstinence-only-until-marriage sex and relationships education. In effect, good SRE (Sex and Relationships Education) already does this, but just without going so far as to say you should wait until you’re married. OK, so what teachers can do is to prefix every lesson with, “When a mummy and a daddy love each other very much and have had their union recognised by the state, then…”  That’s just the legal ‘get out of jail free card’ to cover yourself.

But what in the name of Mary Whitehouse’s handbag are we trying to do to our kids? And why is she just picking on  the girls? At the end of last year there was a pretty disturbing report about the increase in HIV/Aids amongst young, heterosexuals. Has Ms Dorries never heard of Pandora’s Box? Was all that taxpayers’ money wasted with the Don’t Die of Ignorance campaign?

Credentials. Me. I have taught PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) all over the country. I have delivered SRE all over the country, have devised workshops and worked closely with Brook Advisory Service.

Credentials. Nadine Dorries. Wrecked the marriage of a close friend by running off with her husband – which lasted all of six months. Referred to herself as, “The Bridget Jones of Westminster.”

The issue here is that there are far too many of our teenagers getting STIs and far too many teenage pregnancies. We have been in the relegation zone of European league tables for the best part of 20 years now and something has to be done about it. But the religious bigotry of abstinence until marriage is not the solution. We all have sex. Married, unmarried, young, old, gay, straight, vicars, priests and nuns. Teenagers. Everyone. It’s what we know and how we deal with that information that will keep us safe. It may be possible to die of ignorance, but no one ever died from knowing too much. Unless they were a spy or uncovered a criminal operation, but well, you know what I mean.

And just how did we end up bottom of those league tables? Firstly because, despite living in a country that is obsessed with reading about the sexual misdemeanours and peccadilloes of politicians and ‘D’ list celebs, we are, on the whole embarrassed about our own sexuality. Try saying the word ‘sex’ out loud. Now do it 20 times. There, wasn’t so bad was it? If we are unable to be open and frank about sex, then what chance do our children have of learning anything constructive from us?

Secondly, there is a religious bigotry that surrounds sex. It has made the subject a taboo. I mean, come on, Christianity has, at its centre, the idea that the mother of the son of god was a virgin. Talk about inconceivable! The facts of life are that we are animals and we procreate. The whys, wherefores and do-you-mind-if-I-donts are, of course, open to debate, but no one individual or organisation has the right to tell anyone else how or why or wherefore they should or should not practice their sexuality within the confines of the law. I nearly had a thrombo when Channel 4 pulled Tim Minchin’s superb ‘Woody Allen Jesus’ from the Jonathan Ross Show a few days before Christmas. Just because it might have offended a few Christians. It might well have offended every Christian on the planet, but tell me, how many easily offend-able Christians do you think would have been watching the Jonathan Ross Show? The fact that the rest of us have to walk around on eggshells trying not to upset the godsquad when they generally live under a compulsion to tell everyone else how to live their lives, frankly gives me an urge to persecute. Anyway. Breathe…

Enjoy! And don’t say I never do nuffink for ya!

The human body is the most amazingly powerful instrument. At puberty, which, let’s face it, is a difficult enough time in anyone’s life, the human body is faced with a maelstrom of hormones and emotional flotsam and jetsam. Telling a teenager to suppress their feelings is about as helpful telling them not to shake the presents under the Christmas tree, or not to have a drink with their friends, or to stop listening to their favourite band and put Cliff Richard on their iPod instead.

It is not sex education, it is sex AND relationships education. The relationship part is vital and, let’s not forget, comes before sex. (Yes, I know there are exceptions, but let’s please not get into that right now!) Nadine Dorries would like our girls to be educated differently from our boys. Why? And please, whilst I’m on one, can we stop giving parents the right to withdraw their children from SRE classes? Religious segregation? In our schools? In the third millennium? Can I withdraw my children from RE just because it’s against my religion? No. Would I want to? No, because it would be depriving them of information which they might find useful at some point in their lives. If ignorance genuinely is bliss, don’t you think there would be a few more happy looking people out there?

If you are a parent, you could always try talking to your children. If you are a teenager and you have questions about sex, you could always try talking to your parents. You might be surprised at the results, but if you don’t feel like you can talk about things, then the answer is you’re probably not ready to be having sex. There is always the Brook Advisory Service. They are brilliant – and no, I’m not being paid to say that. They have dedicated male and female staff and are about as honest as it gets. And let’s face it, that’s a hell of a lot more than you’ll get from school where, more often than not, there isn’t even a dedicated PSHE co-ordinator and there are going to be another 35 people in the room with you.

But please, do talk. Explore and question, but stay safe. Just don’t put your future in the hands of an ill-informed, idiot like Nadine Dorries. It’ll be nothing to clap about! And if you do want to challenge your parents, you can always ask  why on earth they voted for her for in the first place.

For further information about SRE workshops in schools, please visit:


Addendum 21st Jan 2012

Hoo – flippin – ray! Nadine Dorries has withdrawn her bill. Well, actually if you read her twitter account, (@NadineDorriesMP) she has tweeted that the bill was, “NOT withdrawn.” Presumably, this is because withdrawal  is not abstinence, in a billus interruptus  kind of a way and Ms Dorries is sticking to her guns and waiting until she is married before she consummates her bill.

Still, let’s not split hairs over a technicality. Instead, let us enjoy this victory for what it is and hope that, in future, the responsibility for deciding how our children are educated is in the hands of those who are not driven by outmoded, secular beliefs.


From → Education, Politics

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