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American sex education is just as questionable as the UK's

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Sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust declared England’s sex and relationship education (SRE) curriculum to be “unfit for the smartphone generation”, but it should also be noted that the American method to teaching this subject is not without its downfalls, too.

I vividly recall as an adolescent being forced to suffer through the infamous ‘Miracle of Life’ video, getting separated by gender to be educated on the grisly details of puberty, and then handed a mini deodorant and feminine hygiene products.

A couple of years later, the one heath class we all had to take taught us something very important: how to put a condom on a banana. Oh, and STD’s are nasty situations that you want to avoid at all costs. Very useful stuff, that.

I guess our teachers weren’t aware that my generation’s relationship with the internet had advanced to having practically unlimited access to whatever we wanted to find. Pornography was far from a mystery at this point, so all in all, they weren’t really “teaching” us anything new. However, the emotional and psychological factors of sex were not discussed to help us make sense of what we had already been exposed to.

Also, expressions and nuances of sexuality and gender had evolved beyond the heterosexual-based-teaching that had been used for decades, yet LGBT+ sex and relationships were not really addressed during these lessons.

Personally, I was fortunate enough to attend a school that offered a high school course called ‘Sexuality and Society’, taught by Al Vernacchio. He’s now a nationally recognised sexuality educator, speaker and author; but in school he was just Mr. V to us.   

He introduced the students who took his class to innovative ways of looking at sex, like employing a pizza metaphor instead of the classic baseball one (1st base, 2nd base, scoring etc.); this was to help people understand the not talked about aspects of sex and relationships, such as shared pleasure, fulfilment, discussion, enjoyment and consent.

He’s since published a book and led several public speeches on human sexuality to share his way of approaching the topic.

In his TED Talks, Mr. V encourages society to partake in open dialogue about sex and relationships with one another. He quotes a friend in one, saying: “We Americans are so sexually repressed that we are to the point of being sexually obsessed.”

And he’s absolutely right. With all of America’s talk of being progressive and open-minded as a country, it’s quite ironic that a lot of people still cannot tell you what LGBT+ is an acronym for (and don’t even get me started on the warped concept of consent).

Just as Ian Green, the chief executive of the Terrance Higgins Trust, has said, as a consequence of the deficiency in current sexual education programmes young people are now subject to “low self-esteem, homophobia, bullying, unhealthy relationships and poor sexual heath.”

The modern realities of sex and relationships in this day and age aren’t truly and properly taught anywhere – it’s not just an issue in England or the US. It’s about time that more academic institutions worldwide start adjusting their programmes to accurately cover all the aspects of sex and relationships that exist today.

And for those who are interested, here's Al's TEDx talk on pizza and sex (possibly the best topic combination ever):




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