Sex denial has gone bananas

21st February 2003 at 00:00
LYNDA Brine performs a valuable public service on page 17 by spelling out exactly what forms of intimate carnal knowledge she objects to imparting in sex education lessons. Education would be far better served if more teachers spoke out about the things that disturb them in an increasingly centralised and regimented service.

Other teachers will feel equally uncomfortable answering questions about oral and anal sex. And many parents will agree with her that such issues should not be discussed at school. But the fact that such acts are now openly referred to means that the genie is out of the bottle. Questions do, will and should arise, and not just because, in a world beset by Aids, ignorance may be death rather than bliss.

It is pointless to deny children's curiosity, impelled as it is by sex drives which emerge much earlier than we care to acknowledge. If precocious sexuality can be caught or taught, it is far more likely to be the result of the rampant commercialisation of sex, extra-curricular fumblings with peers or adult abuse, than of a controlled classroom discussion. Whatever else it is, putting a condom on a banana is not a turn-on. Children can no longer be isolated from sex. So they need to be inoculated with clear understanding of what it is and the confidence to reject inappropriate advances. If information alone were incitement, schools would also have to stop teaching about smoking, drugs and war.

Sex education cannot be a value-free zone. But nor can teachers assume that their own morality rules. The law does not compel them to accept the advice of government-sponsored sex experts either. What it does do is to require governing bodies - the stakeholders of society in every school - to set out what is acceptable and appropriate and to allow parents to withdraw their children if they disagree.

By confronting the expectations of the experts from her own moral standpoint, Lynda Brine has courageously lifted the veil on sex education and put forward an argument that deserves to be heard.

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