Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Sex education won't harm our kids, and that is a fact of life

Why are Christian groups so obsessed with sex? Whether it's women wearing short skirts, pop stars waggling their bums, men getting it on with other men - the list of sex-related issues which evidently keep Christians up at night sweating and breathless with, um, concern is endless.

This week it's the turn of the Christian Institute to go for headlines as it rushes to condemn, yet again, existing guidelines on sex education for school children. There is cause for renewed alarm, according to the Institute, because there have been calls from some campaigning groups to make sex education mandatory for primary schools.

There is no evidence that this will actually happen. There are no clues as to what kind of approach such lessons would take if it did. But these minor details don't stop the Christian Institute forging ahead with their hysteria-inducing report.

As is usual with publications of this nature, the language employed is deliberately provocative and ill-informed. The report refers to "sexually explicit" material which has been passed for use in primary schools.

I'm not sure what that phrase summons up for you but a kid's drawing of a happily smiling man and woman sitting together on a space-hopper with the words "mummies and daddies fit together" is not my idea of graphic pornography. I found the drawings rather sweet actually, as I did the information that the "two round bumps on mummy's chest" were sometimes called "boobs".

According to the CI, most parents would find these materials "unacceptable", but who exactly are they talking for?

Not me, that's for sure. Are Christians really so terrified of their children asking them how they were made, or what breasts are called, that they feel threatened by anything which might raise the issue, no matter how un-titillating?

Why do they find the reality of bodies or reproduction so repulsive, such a threat to childhood innocence?

My seven-year-old has asked me lots of questions about how babies are made, what various body parts are called and what they're 'for', including those of her little brother's.

It never occurred to me that her curiosity was indicative of corruption. In fact, I've always believed that the more honest and unspectacular the answers, the more likely she is to grow up with a sensible approach to boys and sex.

I did consider reacting with a shriek and crying 'horror!' before locking her in her room but then wondered if that might give her the idea that sex was something rather exciting which only bigger girls were permitted to know about. Which I just can't see having desirable long-term benefits.

She also knows that sometimes men prefer to 'marry' other men, and finds the idea no more surprising than her own interest in marrying either her dad or me. But don't tell the CI that, they'll be picketing our house before the end of the week.

Many parents appreciate help with spilling the facts of life to their kids and, despite the CI's silly rant, might prefer it if this innocuous kind of material WAS mandatory.

The idea that it will make our children more likely to experiment appears without all foundation to me but, if you believe that, you'll always be entitled to remove your kids from sex ed classes even if they do become compulsory.

So simmer down Christians, and move along - I know how much you get off on a good old protest but there are no cheap thrills to be had here.

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