In breaking news, a leaked report commissioned by the government finds that the Irish Sex Education Curriculum is outdated. And to that we say: is anyone surprised?
We thought not.
If you’ve ever experienced school in Ireland, you’re no doubt already familiar with the fact that our Sex Ed is somewhat… flaccid, if you’ll pardon the pun. I had three school- sanctioned Sex Ed classes in my life. The first one seems to be in line with what most people experienced - the boys and girls were split into two different rooms with a teacher of the same gender. Then the boys talked about wet dreams and the girls talked about periods. Bingo, bango, bongo: sex education! However, they didn’t tell our group about the boy stuff or their group about the girl stuff, resulting in me being very surprised when I finally learned about ejaculation later on. Not ideal.
The second one was a little weirder. We at least had an outside group come in which means we didn’t have to look into the face of the person who taught us maths while coming to terms with the idea of boning. However, the group happened to be a religious organisation who basically told us to never have sex and gave us all mini-bibles and rosary beads. I wish I was joking.
The third and final time I had a Sex Ed class was from our religion teacher in secondary school. Honestly, I’m not sure this was even sanctioned because it was a random Tuesday and neither we or our parents got any warning it was coming. He also rolled a condom onto a carrot for the class to see and then made motions with the carrot and his hand, which was…weird. He didn’t come back next year, but I can’t say for sure it’s related.
Overall my experience with Sex Education in school was weirdly gendered, religiously oriented and just not very informative. Everything I know about sex, I learned through my own research or on the job. Which is fine, but it would have been nice to actually learn something from the awkward classes I had to sit through. I’m not saying it would erase the vision of a teacher jerking off a carrot that I see every time I close my eyes, but it would help.
Now all that was over a decade ago, so you’d think that the curriculum would be updated by now, right? Well, you’d be wrong as the Irish RSE Curriculum actually hasn’t been updated since 1995 . That’s not a joky exaggeration for dramatic effect; kids are still learning the same course as when it was first installed almost 25 years ago.
Is it any wonder then, that it’s been deemed woefully outdated by those who study and teach it in the leaked report?. According to the students surveyed, their sex education classes are ‘fear-based’ and focus almost exclusively on the biological aspects of reproduction and the risks and dangers of sex. There’s almost no information given on consent, LGBT issues and the positive aspects of having a healthy sex life. It’s almost like our entire RSE curriculum was designed by people who believed that sex is wrong. *cough*
Here’s the thing. Treating sex like it’s some bizarro act for deviants and perverts is not just irresponsible, it’s dishonest. It may have suited our image, back in the day to pretend that Ireland was the land of holy sexlessness, but no matter what ridiculous stigma we attach to it sex is happening, and it’s been happening for as long as the earth’s been turning.
Sex is a normal, healthy part of life and the way we educate our young people about sex and relationships should undoubtedly reflect that. We need a curriculum that accurately portrays modern sex and relationships. We need to scrap the idea of abstinence as the norm and start talking about the realities and practicalities of sex. We need to be inclusive of different genders and sexualities (and who knows, maybe even kinks some day!) And god knows we could all use a refresher on consent.
No matter how obvious the conclusion of this leaked report is to some of us, the fact that it even exists is good news. I didn’t get to learn about sex the way I should have but hopefully now the next generations will have the inclusive, informative and positive Sex Ed we deserved.