Ten things more important than porn they need to teach in sex education

How can sex education tackle porn when it doesn't even tackle real sex?

Compared to recent headlines regarding the insidious, brain-and-life-destroying properties of online pornography, the results of this week’s NSPCC survey on the subject were lacking in pizzazz. We imagine that the Daily Telegraph, who commissioned it, was hoping for a ‘gosh, think of the children’ vibe that would ideally not only underpin their campaign for better sex education in schools, but would perhaps serve as further justification for the internet censorship that’s about to hit the country's masturbators in the groin*. Instead, what they got was basically ‘the kids are alright’.

Although 72 per cent of the school pupils questioned said that yes, porn should be talked about in sex education classes, only 28 per cent of them actually believe that porn dictates how young people have to behave in a relationship. This is GREAT news. It shows that, contrary to the right wing media’s scaremongering, young people are actually an eminently sensible bunch who realise that walking up to a woman in a room full of flat-pack furniture and spaffing on her face uninvited is not proper sexual etiquette. Or at least most of them do. There is hope yet.

The call for better sex education is always to be applauded, and yes, the subject should be updated to take account of the huge leaps forward in technology that this generation has seen. Let’s not forget that 28 per cent who do say porn informs their behaviour. Considering that the majority of female performers are dominated, subjugated and objectified, this obviously does not bode well for the future. The Telegraph predictably does not make any mention of the feminist arguments surrounding pornography (objectification, hello?), despite Claire Lilley of the NSPCC saying that young women feel under pressure to look and act like porn stars in order to be liked by boys. Neither does the paper acknowledge the fact that their previous stance on sex education was at times medieval- as the charity Education for Choice pointed out yesterday, three years ago they described sex education and the provision of free contraception as ‘a sexual disaster for teenagers and society’. More alarming still is this use of the phrase ‘normal and acceptable sexual behaviour.’ No one wants to spend their evenings wondering if their boner is acceptable to the Daily Telegraph.

While teaching young people about the issues surrounding pornography is important, so is teaching them about actual sex and relationships. Ideally you would do this first, so that young people have a point of reference, but in this, the government and schools are failing massively. In order to teach kids to distinguish properly between the real and the fake, you need to teach them what’s real first, preferably as part of the national curriculum (as long as sex ed languishes in PSHE, many schools are not going to take it seriously).

So forget porn for a moment. Here are ten depressingly basic things that they really need to start teaching in sex education classes:

1. Where and how to get contraception

Or maybe you could even give it to them? Despite what certain columnists may argue, schoolchildren don't actually have condoms coming out of their ears, and some of them haven't got the foggiest idea how or where to get hold of the pill. You can buy it on the internet or get it free from Brook or your GP, but not enough is being done to make sexually active teenagers aware of this. All you have to do is look at Britain's startling chlamydia and teenage pregnancy rates to know that leaving a whole generation to rely on Eurotrash alone for their info has been a major fuck up. Let's not condemn the next generation to the same.

2. How to use that contraception

There are 25 year olds putting condoms on inside out, people.

3. Consent

The simple notion that, in order to have sex, both parties need to agree. It's not a grey area. The Thicke excuse ('I know you want it') will not stand up in court. Without explaining the basic idea of consent, any attempt to explain the difference between porn, where the line is often blurred, and real sex (where, let's face it, it mostly isn't) is just a waste of everyone's time.

4. Basic anatomy

So that no women ever has to utter the sentence, 'um, that's my bum', again. Anyone who argues that sex education focuses too much on the 'mechanics of sex' is kidding themselves. Cosmo once claimed the pituitary gland was 'behind the anal wall.' Clearly some kind of clitoris/perineum map is needed.

5. How to put it in

Because every time someone shags on telly, the male seems to be in possession of some kind of homing device where all he has to do is lie on top of the lady and the penis just guides itself into the vagina like an oil-slicked baby seal. In actuality, 'the manoeuvre' is usually required.

6. 'When a man and a woman don't love each other very much...'

...but really want to shag each other - that's OK. Sometimes, a man and a man, or a woman and a woman might love each other very much, and that's OK too. In fact, there are many, many circumstances and sexual combinations that are totally, 100 per cent, fucking OK. There is no normal.

7. Sex positions

There are only about four or five, tops. Anything else is just garnish.

8. Orgasms

This is what one feels like. If you're unsure as to whether or not you've had one, then you probably haven't had one. This is not your fault.

9. The Morning After Pill and Abortion

The facts, not the arguments. Here's where you can get the MAP. Here's where you can get it on a Sunday when your local chemist is closed. Here's why the old lady behind the counter who told you to keep your legs closed is an asshole. Here's how you can get EllaOne, which you can take up to five days after having sex. Here's some impartial information about abortion providers. Here are some women talking about their abortions. It was a big deal for some of them. For others, it wasn't.

10. The sexual double standard

There is nothing for you to be ashamed about, girls. You are not a slut, or a skank, or a whore because you enjoy sex, and any man with any respect for women will know that. In fact, it looks like women might actually be more sexual than men (no kidding). Oh, and the frenzied masturbating over 1D in varying naked combinations? Totally fine.

*A small digression on this point: while initially not militantly averse to the idea of opting-in, we assumed that something as important as the potential limiting of the public’s access to media would be, you know, maybe discussed in parliament, or something? But it seems all the PM needs to do is wave his arbitrary silencing wand (this is not a euphemism for his penis - it's even more terrifying than that) and poof! the porn is gone. 

Condoms. Photo: Getty Images

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett and Holly Baxter are co-founders and editors of online magazine, The Vagenda.

Photo: Getty Images
Show Hide image

What do Labour's lost voters make of the Labour leadership candidates?

What does Newsnight's focus group make of the Labour leadership candidates?

Tonight on Newsnight, an IpsosMori focus group of former Labour voters talks about the four Labour leadership candidates. What did they make of the four candidates?

On Andy Burnham:

“He’s the old guard, with Yvette Cooper”

“It’s the same message they were trying to portray right up to the election”​

“I thought that he acknowledged the fact that they didn’t say sorry during the time of the election, and how can you expect people to vote for you when you’re not actually acknowledging that you were part of the problem”​

“Strongish leader, and at least he’s acknowledging and saying let’s move on from here as opposed to wishy washy”

“I was surprised how long he’d been in politics if he was talking about Tony Blair years – he doesn’t look old enough”

On Jeremy Corbyn:

"“He’s the older guy with the grey hair who’s got all the policies straight out of the sixties and is a bit of a hippy as well is what he comes across as” 

“I agree with most of what he said, I must admit, but I don’t think as a country we can afford his principles”

“He was just going to be the opposite of Conservatives, but there might be policies on the Conservative side that, y’know, might be good policies”

“I’ve heard in the paper he’s the favourite to win the labour leadership. Well, if that was him, then I won’t be voting for Labour, put it that way”

“I think he’s a very good politician but he’s unelectable as a Prime Minister”

On Yvette Cooper

“She sounds quite positive doesn’t she – for families and their everyday issues”

“Bedroom tax, working tax credits, mainly mum things as well”

“We had Margaret Thatcher obviously years ago, and then I’ve always thought about it being a man, I wanted a man, thinking they were stronger…  she was very strong and decisive as well”

“She was very clear – more so than the other guy [Burnham]”

“I think she’s trying to play down her economics background to sort of distance herself from her husband… I think she’s dumbing herself down”

On Liz Kendall

“None of it came from the heart”

“She just sounds like someone’s told her to say something, it’s not coming from the heart, she needs passion”

“Rather than saying what she’s going to do, she’s attacking”

“She reminded me of a headteacher when she was standing there, and she was quite boring. She just didn’t seem to have any sort of personality, and you can’t imagine her being a leader of a party”

“With Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham there’s a lot of rhetoric but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of direction behind what they’re saying. There seems to be a lot of words but no action.”

And, finally, a piece of advice for all four candidates, should they win the leadership election:

“Get down on your hands and knees and start praying”

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.