My job is basically helping schools to develop PSHE (personal, social and health education) but I orignally just focused on SRE (sex and relationship education). I have learnt heaps doing this job. I have not been so interested in the factual knowledge I have acquired but more about people's attitudes and reactions to anything relating to sex. I find it bizarre to think that here we are in the 21st century and most of us are still uncomfortable talking about sex (or come to that, body parts). In fact I think we are getting worse - the 80s threw up HIV and people felt they had to tackle that. Now people seem to want to avoid it all again!
We seem to have two (possibly three)approaches to sex in this country: the first is that of absolute repression - don't mention it AT ALL - it's filthy! But many people can suddenly convert to the second approach within seconds with the right trigger: carry on smutting (not a word I know) which is about excessive giggling at any hint of suggestion of sex with a generous seasoning of innuendo. (The possible third is an innappropriate break-out from the repression - where some people engage in sexual practices that can actually hurt and are dangerous.)
The Dutch view our attitude towards sex as completely strange. They take sex very seriously. They say that realistically young people will always have sex (as opposed to some people in this country believing they can be scared out of ever having it). This means we need to make sure that the sex they have is 1) safe, 2) with someone they trust 3) in an appropriate place 4) something they are sure they won't regret etc. In fact the Dutch give their young people sexual aspirations (How dare they - I can hear the Daily Mail already). They teach their young people to aim high so they are far less likely to put up with a terrible sexual encounter. In the UK we leave our young people to flounder around clueless because people are so unwilling to even bring the topic up - let alone have meaningful discussions about it. No wonder they make mistakes and have sex 'in a graveyard next to a dead fox' (14 year old quote)!
When I talk to parents/carers I start by asking them,
'When it comes to sex and relationships, what do we NOT want for our children?' This produces a list that highlights clearly that sex is a potentially dangerous business. So is crossing the road - but we teach kids to do that safely.
I fully understand that this is all simply a question of repression perpetuating repression but when I have stood in front of parents for an hour or so and given them the common sense angle and removed their irrational 'gut reaction' I regularly witness adults do a 180 degree turn in attitudes towards talking to young people and children about sex.
I am still driving round Norfolk trying to de-prude it. One step forward, two steps back. I doubt I alone can achieve such a momentous change in attitudes but I am learning a lot trying!!!