Teenage girls should be taught about masturbation and sexual pleasure in science lessons to prevent them being sexually exploited, new research claims.
Learning about the clitoris and the female orgasm would prevent girls from seeing their own sexuality as "awful" and "not natural", according to Judith Price, of Bath Spa University. And this would ultimately help them to form equal, mutually satisfying relationships.
Ms Price questioned 277 Year 9 pupils in the South West of England about their views on sexual morality. She found that many had firm ideas about what was and was not acceptable sexual behaviour.
Most were strongly in favour of consensual sex, but not before would-be lovers were old enough to appreciate the risks involved.
Ms Price said: "It was fine to have sex just for pleasure. However . it was not right for very young and uninformed people to have sex, because of the much greater risk of an unplanned pregnancy."
Almost two-thirds believed sex was only right in the context of a long- term relationship. Girls were particularly likely to believe that one- night stands were "not on".
"Girls said they were looking for love, but were happy with hugging as an expression, rather than the complications of sex," Ms Price said. "Girls had an idea in their heads of perfect relationships and of boys who loved them."
But more than half the boys also believed sex was best within long-term relationships. One respondent said: "Some boys would feel quite shy . and would need to be able to talk about it."
Three-quarters said a couple should only have sex if they knew each other well enough to talk about condom use beforehand. Boys were only slightly less enthusiastic than girls about this: one boy said sexual partners should know each other "more than well enough" to talk about contraception.
Pupils opposed the idea of having sex while drunk. One girl said: "If you're ready, you wouldn't get drunk. You'd want to remember it."
And they were aware of the emotional and physical risks involved in having sex. "Having a kid can spoil later relationships," one respondent said. Another added: "Society looks down on girls, not boys."
Seventy-one per cent of pupils felt masturbation was a good way to explore sexual pleasure. But while boys willingly discussed the subject, many girls were shy and embarrassed. One said: "With boys, you kinda expect it, but with girls it is more of a shock if you find out they do it."
Ms Price points out that sex education lessons allow for boys' sexual development, but very little time is given to girls' needs. "We teach boys that masturbation is normal and acceptable . We expect girls to guard against inappropriate sexual behaviour, with little or no acknowledgment of their own emotional or sexual needs," she said.
If girls knew more about their own sexual pleasure, she believes, they would be less willing to become involved in exploitative relationships in which they give but do not receive sexual satisfaction.
"Female sexuality . should be presented in a positive and open way, and include objective information on sexual pleasure and the importance of the clitoris in achieving orgasm," she said.
Gender attitudes to sex
Sex is right at any age, if it is what both people want
- 66.7% of boys agree
- 62.8% of girls agree