A scientific study hot off the presses of academia shows that students in the United States and several countries around the world are deeply concerned that their sex education coursework is “heterosexist” and places too much emphasis on the fact that sex frequently results in the creation of babies.
The study, an analysis of recent international research, concludes that students generally think their sex education lessons are ineffective.
Students gripe that their sex education teachers “appear reluctant to acknowledge” that sex is a “potentially embarrassing topic.” They “report feeling vulnerable” during the lessons, “with young men anxious to conceal sexual ignorance and young women risking sexual harassment if they participate.”
The “heterosexist” complaint stems from student beliefs that sex education focuses too much on the fact that sex is a reproductive activity which often results in pregnancy. Students say they’d prefer that their sex lessons instead highlight how exciting and fun sex is.
Students also grumble that sex education portrays women as passive participants in sex and fails to feature discussions of gay and transgender sex. Thus, it “is out of touch with many young people’s lives.”
“Young people’s feedback indicates that when sex education is negative, heterosexist — or in any other way seems irrelevant to their experiences, or judgmental — they switch off,” explained Pandora Pound, the study’s lead author, according to NBC News.
“If young people aren’t engaged with their sex and relationship education then valuable opportunities for learning and discussion are lost,” Pound added.
“What is surprising is the consistency of the findings across different countries and over the 25 years that the study spans,” Pound also said, according to NBC.
The authors of the study — Pound, Rebecca Langford and Rona Campbell — suggest that sex education teachers need more training so they can be “sex-positive.”
“These programs need to be delivered by trained experts who enjoy and are confident about their work, and — crucially — are able to maintain clear boundaries with students,” Pound said, according to NBC.
The collected research analyzed by the researchers includes studies of students ranging in age from age 4 to age 19. It also includes studies of young adults reminiscing about their experiences with sex education.
The studies were conducted between 1990 and 2015 in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Ireland, New Zealand, Japan, Brazil and Iran.
Pound is a research fellow at the School of Social and Community Medicine at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom.