Innocence for Ignorance

Let’s get one thing straight – sex education in our schools is lacking. It’s time to review what you have supposedly learned from sex ed classes that are nothing short of being prehistoric. To be honest, dinosaurs would’ve had a better understanding of periods than some teachers at my old school.

I remember a nurse coming in to teach us how to use a tampon and everyone giggling because periods are hilarious – so that when I actually got my first period I was really scared and ashamed to tell anyone, because I didn’t know enough about them because talking about sex and the body is a hushed subject in schools.

If I had to pick a word to describe sex education classes then it would be ‘vague’. They are vague in every form – what they contain, the relationships they present, and basically if you are a cis, heterosexual couple who occasionally enjoy ‘consciously coupling’ in the missionary position then this is the workshop for you! For everyone else on the expanding spectrum, these classes are alienating. Calling from my own experience, trying to find out more information on being bisexual was difficult – I had never heard that word being used in a serious context until university. During high school, there only seemed to be gay or straight – easy tick-box categories, you picked which applied and that’s you for life basically.

The TIE campaign (Time for Inclusive Education) created in June this year by John Daly and Louis Stevenson, are fighting for LGBTQ+ inclusive education to be implemented in the Scottish education system. The group launched an online petition to the Scottish government which is currently lodged to the Scottish Parliament. It is imperative that this fantastic campaign cannot be ignored. It was not until I became a student at Glasgow (and created a Tumblr account) that I started learning of the diverse labels and definitions of a person’s gender or sexuality. At school, terms such as transgender or asexual are pretty much non-existent. I learned about being transgender through shit TV actually – Hollyoaks introduced their first transgender character on the soap in 2010. People (including myself) are forced to get their information about their sexuality through outside sources: film, tv, porn, watching ‘coming out’ videos on YouTube where everyone declared ‘it gets better!’ all whilst our school system stays silent.

Teachers themselves are afraid to comment on LGBTQ+ issues, with the shocking statistic that almost a third of Scottish teachers have heard homophobic/transphobic comments from members of staff. Couple this with a lack of training on the appropriate response and care towards LGBTQ+ youth attending school, the ignorance trickles down to the students themselves, leading to 99% of LGBTQ+ youth hearing the phrase ‘that’s so gay’ spoken daily, which is heart-breaking. Everyone has said this phrase at some point in their life, there’s no denying it. At school ‘gay’ is a synonym for something bad, something negative, something sub-standard – this is mirrored in our failing education system as there is next to no sexual education for LGBTQ+ youth.

Campaign 4 Consent is another group petitioning the National government, this time to include consent lessons in the sex education curriculum.  They summed up the campaign neatly,it is immediately crucial for consent to be taught as it is universally relevant as well as being a very basic concept that is often overlooked’. In my opinion, and hopefully everyone’s, teaching children about the awareness of consent and to recognise whether or not they have given/got it is inherently vital. Here are some upsetting statistics from Rape Crisis Scotland – in the years 2013/14 there were 1,690 assaults reported to the police, a rise of 23%. Up to a third of girls in relationships suffer an unwanted sexual act, and women are more likely to be attacked by someone they know. It is easy to bracket consent into either ‘attacking’ or ‘not attacking’ someone. It is not as obvious as this.

Also when presented with the opportunity to learn from these lessons, do not take it as a personal insult, and that everyone is branding you ‘a rapist’. No one is above learning basic lessons for consent. The horrifying statistics above prove there is lingering ambiguity over what exactly sexual assault is. These lessons are a necessity, and it is easy to look at this through Instagram filtered glasses here at Glasgow Uni – some folk canny wait to start chucking condoms and fanny pads in the unions, so why is sex so hushed in schools? A child is not losing their innocence if they learn about sex and consent, you’re instilling in them from a young age basic foundations in order for them to become a decent, respectful human being in the long term. In the end, that is what all education should do.

Both of these issues are so important, and I would implore everyone to support each campaign respectively. African writer Chimamanda Adichie once said, ‘The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.’ A lack of education stamps stereotypes on LGBTQ+ youth, whilst consent lessons are so blaringly obvious that I guess we should just sweep them under the carpet and never talk about them. Not only does there need to be a shift in sex education classes in schools, but more classes brought into university life as well. Most of all there needs to be a change in attitude. Lesson learned.  

[Emma McKie]

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