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What's Worse for the Future of Students' Safe Sex - the STI 'Superbug' or a Catholic Education?


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Students have sex. A lot. In fact, we’re pretty much the only demographic who are dictated by cliché stereotypes to actually have enough sex.

So news of a new ‘STI Superbug’ – a strand of gonorrea resistant to antibiotics – that has been discovered in Japan and is predicted to spread around the world within ten years is certainly bad news for a generation the Mail label as accustomed to ‘increased promiscuity’. (I don’t think this is necessarily the case but I couldn’t resist linking to an article where the Mail makes the sweeping unsubstantiated claim that all young people are a bunch of sluts).

However, a conversation with a 15 year-old I knew this afternoon had me choking on my own disbelief over the 6 o’clock news and thinking about an even bigger threat to the sex habits of young people. The subject of our conversation? The sex education assembly she had at her Catholic school today. Something that I suggest poses a greater threat than an antibiotic-resistant strand of gonorrea.

I felt quite incredulous when I first heard about this, so heads up and brace yourselves.

Everyone’s familiar with the typical Catholic school Sex Ed myth: don’t have sex until you’re married; don’t use a condom even if you have AIDS; sex is only for the act of procreation. However, the teaching at this school went beyond this in a way that seems darkly pre-historic and worryingly hysterical.

I was treated to a 15 year-old school girl’s delightfully entertaining story of how a guest came to her assembly today and told an entire hall full of Year Tens that sex is bad and condoms don’t protect you from getting pregnant.

The guest asked two students to unwrap two teddy bears – one ripped one and one unripped one – and asked boys which they would prefer as a present. Because apparently a female’s virginity is a gift like a teddy bear and a boy should never ever associate himself with a teddy bear that is ripped.

She then gave several schoolchildren cups of water and asked them to, in front of the assembly, take a sip. And spit it back out. And then swap several times. ‘Would you drink from the same cup once someone else already has?!’ she apparently bellowed. Acceptably, a gruesome and probably quite accurate metaphor, but still – something we should be impinging upon impressionable 15 year-olds?

Her creative geniuses continued. Students were then given die to roll for a short period of time. After five minutes they were told to stop and count how many sixes were rolled. And then told that number would be the amount of children they would have if they had sex. I’m not even sure what this was intended to mean, but when asked by a student if a condom protected them from pregnancy, the guest replied ‘no, not really’.

Many more anecdotes ensued following this from my story-teller who experienced this first-hand, to the point where television headlines of Murdoch’s sinking future were drowned out by shrieks of laughter coming from family members gradually collecting in the living room to hear the gruesome details of this lecture that sounded like something out of a 1950s Girl Guide manual or modern day spoof comedy.

Other highlights recounted include the phrases ‘If you get syphilis, you will die’, and ‘when people only have sex once in their lifetime, it is the best sex they’ve ever had’. No shit Sherlock.

Other even more ridiculousness was described but I think you get the gist. I was told everyone in the school hall certainly did, and took it all in with solemn faces and worrying thoughts.

The Catholic school I describe is a good one, highly successful in the league tables, and like I have mentioned, most are aware of the Catholic Church’s controversial teaching on sex. But what prompts a good school to promote teaching so backward and detrimental to young woman today?

I understand that the Church have their beliefs, but at the same time schoolgirls are growing up in an environment and society where we all seem well too aware at the risks surrounding us in a culture where young people are subjected to over-sexualisation and pressures of sexuality from significantly young ages.

Is the answer to ignore it and naively believe that if you tell 15 year-olds to only have sex when they are married then they will follow your orders? The Catholic Church have their beliefs, but surely teachers and those working in a young people’s learning environment also have a duty to inform young people realistically about the pressures of sex during your teenage years? And the necessity for protection?

The teaching and examples that were given to students that my younger sister described beggers belief and I’d imagine installs fear in any student greater than that posed by worries of a new form of gonorrea.

When these schoolgirls reach University, it’ll be occasions like these that will leave a lasting impression. Would they really want an image of this bellowing 50-something overzealous woman transfixed in their minds when they have sex? Consider the fact also that some girls might not actually make it to University despite planning to after falling pregnant because they had not used contraceptives. There is no doubt in my mind that some 15 year-old would have left that assembly eternally scarred and even unable to form healthy sexual relationships when they are older.

Can you imagine if this guest had taken her indoctrination to a filled University lecture theatre instead of a school assembly hall? Imagine the outrage. I’d tell her to respect woman more – virginity isn’t a present to the male species. She certainly shouldn’t be installing fear and guilt in young woman over one of the most natural things in the world. Furthermore, she most definitely should not be playing down the importance of using contraception such as condoms to youngsters. Doesn’t she know there’s an antibiotic-resistant form of gonorrea spreading like wildfire out there?!

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