The first of the ‘teach yourself sex ed’ course is all about the relationships and sex education that you’ve had so far. What did you learn? Who taught you?
I’m making these during the third lockdown so that you can do relationships and sex education at home. Let’s face it, your parents probably aren’t going to do it. Schools will probably wait until you’re actually back in the classroom.
I’ve been thinking about doing these, even before lockdown, because I know a lot of people don’t get the relationships and sex education (RSE) that they want. For the next few weeks I’ll do one of these on a different topic each week and see how it goes.
This is a bit different to everything else on the website because this is specifically RSE rather than advice and information. As we’ll cover shortly, good RSE really is just about someone like me asking you really good questions.
It’s about getting you to think about the world critically and creatively. So there’s going to be a lot of me just asking you to think about stuff, write things down, draw things, fill in charts and graphs. There might be stuff you can chat about with your friends too.
You can’t just read this passively and hope it sinks in. You’re going to have to do some work.
What we’ll cover in ‘teach yourself sex ed’
I’m going to work out what we cover in this course as we go (hopefully you’ll get in touch and tell me what it is that you would like me to cover) but they will cover the following broad themes.
- Relationships and Sex Education (this one)
- Our relationship to ourselves
- Gender and sexuality (and expectations placed on us around these)
- Sex itself (including safer sex)
- The Sex We See (porn and sexual images)
Over the next few weeks you can let me know if there’s anything in particular you would like me to cover. Just send me a message via the contact page here or leave a comment below.
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Before we start
If we were doing RSE in a classroom or somewhere I would start with a group agreement. Group agreements are important because talking about relationships and sex can be difficult. Not everyone feels okay talking about it, and that’s okay. People have different experiences, backgrounds, understandings, and values.
I’ve designed these for you to do by yourself really – it’s teach yourself sex ed. So the only rule is to do as much or as little as you want. I’m not going to ask you to think about anything very challenging, but if you find something tricky it’s okay to leave it.
If something comes up relating to your own experiences about this, and there’s no-one you can trust to speak to about it, you could get in touch with me, but better still you could also ask to speak to someone at school. Schools have a safeguarding lead, or counsellors, or other people with a caring ‘pastoral’ role. They are still available even during lockdown. You could also speak to a service near you.
Okay, let’s crack on.
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Your relationships and sex education
The first relationships and sex education workshop that we’ll do is about relationships and sex education. Why?
- It’s an introduction to the topic (and to give you an idea of what it is and what it isn’t)
- So that you can tell me what you would like me to include
- To think about what you’ve learned so far
- Why we learn relationships and sex education
- How what we learn and how we learn it can affect us.
1. What have you learnt about sex and relationships?
So here’s the first activity for you. Think about what you have learnt so far about relationships and sex. What have you been taught that you know is true; think is true; aren’t sure about; or know is total rubbish?
Spend a few minutes thinking about this, maybe about 10 minutes? You don’t need to print this out, just write it on a piece of paper.
Have a look at what you’ve written down.
- What do you notice?
- Is one box more full than the others?
- Is there anything in common in any of the boxes?
- As a result of thinking about this, is there anything you would like me to cover in the course?
Keep hold of what you’ve written (put it somewhere safe where other people can’t see it) because this is something that you can come back to throughout the course. You might discover that some of the things you thought were true were actually not, and also vice versa.
Okay next activity
2. Who taught you about sex and relationships?
Look at the handout below (again, no need to print this out). Who taught you about sex and relationships? You don’t have to name specific people, websites, TV shows.
If you don’t want to write any of this down, it’s okay just to think about this.
What do you think about your answers?
Where was the best, most accurate, most trustworthy, or most useful RSE from?
What would you have preferred?
Be honest, what would be the best way to learn about this?
3. Review your sex and relationships education so far?
So thinking about your relationships and sex education, what have you learned about the following?
- What sex is?
- When is the right time to have sex?
- What kinds of sex are ‘okay’ and what aren’t?
- Who has sex?
- What’s the purpose of sex?
- What have you learned about relationships?
Write down some of the things that come up for you (just bullet points is fine). You don’t need to write down the specifics, just key words and themes. Again hang on to it.
Look at what you’ve written down:
- What do you notice?
- Who is included and who is excluded?
- How much was about risk and how much has been about enjoyment?
- Has this been useful to you so far in your life?
4. Other people’s relationships and sex education
I do this last activity with teachers and other professionals when I run training courses with them. No matter how old they are they often say the same thing about their own sex and relationships education. Have any of these come up in your RSE yet (in school or anywhere else)?
- It was all about not getting (or getting someone) pregnant
- Scary stories about pregnancy and STIs
- Very little on how to do consent
- Nothing on how sex can be pleasurable
- Sex is about reproduction, not pleasure
- The only kind of sex that counts is penis in vagina sex
- It was aimed at straight people
- You should only have sex when you’re married or in love
- Don’t have sex until you’re old enough
- When you are old enough it’s expected that you’re going to have sex
- It’s an awkward teacher and everyone was just giggling and not taking it seriously
- They were just lecturing us and telling us how to behave
- We weren’t taught anything that we could use.
I’ve been training adults in relationships and sex education for over 15 years (I’ve been working in RSE for over 20 years, I am very old) and honestly this is what they come up with pretty much every time. There are some people who have had really good RSE, and there was one teacher from the Netherlands who was basically taught the opposite of all of this, but mostly this what people are taught.
Why do you think this might happen? If your teachers got this kind of RSE when they were your age, imagine what their teachers were taught?
It’s also an example of where culture has an effect on us. We’ll cover this in the next module, but culture is something that comes up a lot in RSE. I call them ‘should stories’ – messages that we receive in society about how we should do things. These messages aren’t necessarily what is right, or ethical, but just what is ‘normal’ or ‘common sense’.
We’re going to explore these in more depth in this course. It’s also something I talk about a lot at this website and in my book Can We Talk About Consent? #plugthebook
Okay that’s it for this week. Well done! Have a nice cup of tea. Check back in next week where we’ll start to think about our relationship to ourselves.
© Justin Hancock, 2021.
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If you’re over 18 and really into sex ed I have a podcast you might like called Culture Sex Relationships.
If you want to teach about this stuff, don’t just show people a website – that’s kinda boring! Check out my very popular RSE resources at bishtraining.com
Justin Hancock has been a trained sex and relationships educator since 1999. In that time he’s taught and given advice about sex and relationships with thousands of young people in person and millions online. Find out more about Justin here