Tune in, switch off - Squirm as you learn

17th April 2009 at 01:00

Now we know why some secondary schools have such a high attendance rate in Year 11. Warnings of full frontal nudity and strong language were given repeatedly to viewers of Channel 4's The Sex Education Show vs Pornography, the sex education programme in which a handful of schools took part.

So just imagine what the teachers must have said to the year group before taking them into the hall to hear what Anna, our presenter, described as "the truth about tits, facts about fannies and the low down on labia". I blushed, she didn't.

Even typing these words into my computer will send our computer system into overdrive to find the miscreant who's abusing the system. I could get myself arrested.

The idea was to show the reality of the human body in all (and I really do mean all) its glorious nakedness to make young people aware that the fantasies portrayed in porn were not to be believed.

This, of course, assumes that young people today are into porn. When Anna casually asks: "How many of you have seen breasts in pornography?" it's pretty unanimous. Though I noticed the boys sheepishly looking round to check before raising their hands.

When she shows their parents the kind of things they can now view for free and unfiltered on the web, they look like the audience in a horror movie, all grimaces, closed eyes and twisted features. "It's not just pornography, it's bordering on evil," claims one.

Is this really the brave new world of modern technology? Apparently so. And that's why, another useless but interesting fact, VHS beat Betamax in the Eighties. Because that's where the porn could be viewed. Why didn't I know that? Such an innocent life. It seems that the web is just one throbbing, sexual search engine.

Anna tells us that the lesson on the basics of boobs has the students "hungry for more". Well it might have increased their appetites, but it didn't do much for the five ladies who had to stand there having their appearance criticised.

Boys and girls all rejected the veiny, milk-producing mammary glands with stretch marks in favour of the perfect plastic reproductions. I'd prefer the Big Brother house any day. Even The Apprentice is less humiliating.

So on to labias. Yes, as casually as that. The students enter a room with photographs of gigantic genitalia in a treasure hunt to spot the fake. By this time they've lost their shyness and we hear that a third of them are having sex, but not getting sex education.

This section was so explicit, I kept expecting a police raid and "Headteacher in porn view scam" headline. After all, this happened to Jacqui Smith's husband and he was just having "an additional service". So I learnt about the "full Hollywood" and "shaven havens".

They may not have been getting any sex education, but I certainly was.

This was a campaigning programme with factual commentary and functional images. The body shots had both sexes squirming. Pornography it was not.

So a courageous example of sex education for all ages and praise to the schools for being brave enough to get involved. Now what did they say was the improvement in their students' attendance?

Ray Tarleton is principal at South Dartmoor Community College in Ashburton, Devon.

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