let’s talk about sex

Channel 4's Sex Ed trailblazer

Earlier this week, Channel 4 unveiled plans for a new documentary, Sex in Class, that will campaign for better sex education in British schools. The show is to centre on sex therapist Goedele Liekens’ dual-pronged fight for a revision of the Sex Ed syllabus and the introduction of a GCSE in the subject.

As far as a first reaction goes, Channel 4’s head of factual entertainment, Liam Humphreys took the words right out of my mouth when he told The Guardian: ‘I hope it will be as entertaining as fuck’. And, hey, we might just be looking at the start of something brilliant here.

Really, it’s high time that sex education in this country was given an overhaul. Not just because we still have unacceptable teenage pregnancy rates and a rising tide of STDs but because somehow, somewhere along the line, the Glorious Sexual Revolution has been betrayed, and our schools, colleges and universities are full of fledgling adults with attitudes towards sex that are damaging their relationships both with each other and with themselves.

Ours is a generation that does use sex to connect but in a counterintuitive, and quite unhelpful way. Rather than employing our sexuality in getting to better know ourselves or whoever we’re dating, we use it to build a relationship with society as a whole. More than ever before, sex is for young people a matter of carving out an acceptable public persona – becoming a massive lad or dodging the label of ‘slut’. And consequentially we place a terrifying amount of importance on being attractive; we sacrifices personal desire for conformity; and  we see sexual partners largely as a means to a social end.

Of course, it’s not like we teens and twenty-somethings learned to think this way in Sex Ed classes: it’s what we learn from the media that is to blame for our restrictive outlook. Rap lyrics, deodorant adverts, the Daily Mail sidebar of shame –  that’s where you can find our sexual ideology in its purest form .

But that doesn’t go to say that we can’t achieve something with reforms in sex education. A more comprehensive, liberal minded programme – one that goes beyond the mechanics of coitus and what to do with a condom and takes a wider look at what sex can mean and do for the individual – will be able to give pupils a robust alternative to the fictions of sex that the media consistently churn out. It might even disabuse them of those myths that sadly have us, the generation above, so enthralled.

So let’s bring on Sex in Class. Channel 4 may be courting controversy when they send Liekens into schools with all that European sex positivity, but this is one show that’s worth a gold star.

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