What should I include in my 'sex and relationships' lessons?
April 4, 2016 2:24 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for advice as to what I should include as 'extras' in my sex and relationships lessons for ten and eleven year old children.

I teach Year 6 in the UK, which is children aged 10 and 11. As part of the Year 6 curriculum, in the summer term we teach the children about growing up, puberty, relationships (including, briefly, homosexuality), sex (briefly touching on contraception), conception and having and caring for a baby. This is covered over a series of five one-hour lessons.

This year I am looking to update the course of lessons a little. I am happy with what I'm teaching them about puberty, growing up (physical and emotional changes in their bodies; girls and boys), sex (the mechanics and context), conception and birth of a child. I have a vague sense that this isn't enough, though, that we're not fully equipping them with the knowledge and skills they need before they start high school.

Some of the things I am thinking we should be including in these lessons are: peer pressure including consent issues around sex; use of social media and the internet (dangers etc); self-confidence and body issues (including the way the media distorts our perception of what 'real' people look like; and issues around feminism / equality.

On the other hand, I need to balance this with the fact that they are only 10 and 11 years old, and I don't want to give them too much information, or tell them things that are age-inappropriate. Furthermore, once I have drawn up the plans I'll need to get them approved by the school governors.

My questions are:
- Do you think the above topics are appropriate for this age children? I will of course be consulting with my head teacher and the governors, but they'll want to see some detailed plans about what I intend to teach.
- Do you have any other things you think I should include in these lessons?
- Have you got any resources or links that would help bring these topics alive? I'm thinking video clips, online interactive resources, etc.

Thanks in advance!
posted by schmoo to Education (48 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

Stewriffic has experience with just this sort of thing, and will probably be along soon. Link just in case.
posted by amtho at 2:43 AM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think the internet safety is a great addition. This is a source used in some New Hampshire (US) schools but it has a lot of good information, particularly reminding kids if you wouldn't shout it from a stage, don't say it on the internet.

This is also a great age to open the discussion about gender and identity and how gender is different than sexuality.

It's also NEVER too early to begin the discussion of drugs and alcohol. Good luck!
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 2:45 AM on April 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

Some great ideas from these people at Minus 18 but I'd appreciate more people talking about couplings/feelings/families/sex with people from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. I hate that my kids almost only ever see people of colour married to people of the same colour in movies, books and tv. I hope they will see examples of couples from differing cultural backgrounds around them too and that sex ed will address it. I don't want my (or any!) kids to feel invisible and unloveable.
posted by taff at 2:55 AM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Talking about sex can be triggering for some children who have been abused, or can be the first time a child learns that behaviour which they have been subjected to was inappropriate. It might be worth looking for some resources around this on the NSPCC website. ChildLine also has some resources including the PANTS rule - this teaches kids about ownership of their own body, consent and that no means no, and encourages them to talk to someone especially if they have been told to keep something "secret".
posted by billiebee at 3:03 AM on April 4, 2016 [8 favorites]

Have you looked at the OWL curriculum?
posted by k8t at 4:17 AM on April 4, 2016 [7 favorites]

Ontario just updated their Healthy Living curriculum last year. You might want to look at page 171 here to see the expectations; additional googling of our Grade Six curriculum will get more actual lesson plans. Referencing what other common-wealth countries are doing may give more support to your own curriculum before your principal.
posted by saucysault at 4:43 AM on April 4, 2016

UK answer here- I worked with older teens and young adults and they didn't understand much about stds beyond chlamydia... They didn't realize how important Pap smears were for sexually active women etc...
posted by catspajammies at 5:04 AM on April 4, 2016

I highly recommend the excellent Ask Bish for your sex and relationships guidance needs.

posted by ozgirlabroad at 5:27 AM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Are you going to teach them about kindness/respect for others in such relationships/empathy or is that implied? It's one thing to learn that the behaviour of others can be inappropriate but also it can be easy to miss the '... therefore I should not not put peer pressure on others, force people to do things they don't want to do' part.

The self-confidence and media aspect is great. Does it include telling the boys that the media is going to tell them to associate their manliness with their sexual prowess on a regular basis? I don't know how you say that in a not-so-adult way. Does it also include how the media is also going to relentlessly focus on romantic relationships and not friendships between men and women and how important friendship is?

Can you do something to the effect of getting them to see the world from the viewpoint of the opposite sex? Not just showing them but asking, how do you think it feels. I would definitely get newspaper clippings and ask for e.g. the boys 'imagine being a girl and reading this. What do you think the expectations are?' and vice versa.

Btw the term 'peer pressure' is really hard to relate to. Something like 'make fun of you' or 'make you feel ashamed' is likely to get them to listen more.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 5:30 AM on April 4, 2016 [5 favorites]

When I taught 14-year-olds in the US, too many were already parents. I learned quickly that I could say whatever I was thinking on the topic of sex (strange, as I taught English,) specifically I could talk to the kids about their own sexual experiences.

The hormones are running crazy and they're all so interested in sex. I tried to give them their own rulebooks, so that they could be in charge of their own sexual lives. These are things I told them.

1. If you fantasize about having sex with someone, you need to fantasize about birth control. You will find yourself in a situation where you want to have sex, but haven't thought through the consequences. It's okay, your brain is still growing. Having sex might be a terrible decision, but if it happens, don't compound it by getting an STD or an unwanted pregnancy.

2. You can go as far as you want to sexually, and pull the plug at any time. You can say no naked with a dick in your mouth if you like.

3. If someone is drunk, they can't give consent. If someone is drunk, they can't give consent. If someone is drunk, they can't give consent. Not saying no, isn't consent.

4. If you think you want a baby at your age, you haven't minded enough children. Do more babysitting, then get back to me.

5. Always keep control of your drink. Don't leave it to dance and then get back to it. Don't take a drink someone offers you. Don't trust someone just because they're showing sexual interest in you.

6. An adult showing sexual interest in a child is a pedophile. That person doesn't want you for you, they want you because you're a child. I don't want to hear any of that "age ain't nothing but a number" bullshit either. Pedophiles hunt for children in places where children hang out. This is in real life and on the internet. They'll tell you anything to get you interested in them. Don't believe everything someone tells you.

My advice, be real and honest, encourage them to discuss their experiences, you don't want to believe it, but they're all having experiences. They may be fantasies, or uncomfortable exchanges on the internet, or unwanted attention from people. Help them find their words, so that they can use them effectively and feel very comfortable discussing sex. You shouldn't be embarrassed, you should answer all questions honestly and if you want, add morals into it.

I used to tell people, "you'll never be sorry you waited until you are older. Right now your brains are wired for "RIGHT NOW!" and it seems really urgent. But you're not really ready to experience how wonderful it can be when two people connect. If you have to sneak around, or lie, or worry, it's not fun."
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:40 AM on April 4, 2016 [9 favorites]

Here is a link to the OWL curriculum.
posted by instamatic at 5:41 AM on April 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

There are definitely resources out there for talking about consent and peer pressure and healthy relationships with 11-year-olds, and definitely that should be part of the discussion.

One of the things that I STILL remember as particularly valuable to me at that age during sex ed was, one of the teachers just came in and talked to us about being married. She talked to us about her sex life with her husband, she talked to us about deciding to have kids, she talked to us about navigating things as a couple, and while on the one hand obviously we giggled through the entire thing because we were 11 and she talked frankly about blow jobs, on the other hand it was an incredibly powerful demonstration of how a normal, healthy adult relationship functions, with respect and passion and conversation, rather than the sorts of things you see on TV with passive-aggressive behavior and overriding the other person's wishes out of "passion" and so on. Of course some of us had parents with good relationships, but it's hard to see and understand in your own parents. When I mention it to people I went to junior high with, they all vividly remember that day too.

Maybe these days you have a couple of adults in a couple of different kinds of healthy relationships come in and talk to the kids about their relationships -- because really, all healthy relationships look alike in a lot of ways, with the respect and negotiation and learning to "fight right" and so forth alongside the passion and sex.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:50 AM on April 4, 2016 [8 favorites]

Right around this age was when my (US) health lessons were split among genders and the girls were taught about periods and boys were apparently taught about wet dreams and deodorant. I have discovered that most men I know in their thirties know little to nothing about women's anatomy or menstrual cycles. The girls were similarly left in the dark about men's sexual health - for example, multiple friends have told me they were pressured by men who claimed they were in pain due to "blue balls". Some clear and open dialogue about these issues could really make a positive impact at that time of life.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 6:38 AM on April 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

Consent is not just for sex! You can introduce consent in a broader (and totally age-appropriate) context. At work, can't find links right at the moment, apologies.
posted by eviemath at 6:49 AM on April 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

I came here to say the exact same as eviemath. Start building on the idea of consent, boundaries and the right to say no in contexts that aren't sexual.
Perhaps this is one of the links eviemath referred to; I think I might have found it on metafilter at one point. For 10 year olds I would use examples from this comic, not the whole thing -- to play ethics games, etc.
posted by flourpot at 6:54 AM on April 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Something brief about gender identity and transgender stuff would be a good idea.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:33 AM on April 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

If someone is drunk, they can't give consent. If someone is drunk, they can't give consent. If someone is drunk, they can't give consent.

That is false. Saying it repeatedly doesn't make it any less false. I work on a lot of rape cases, and I can tell you that if you tell your students the above, you'll be misinforming them about the law. Drunk people have consensual sex all the time. If two drunk people have sex with each other, does that mean they're both raping each other? No. That kind of statement trivializes rape; it makes people think, "Rape is no big deal."

You should talk about consent, but talk about it realistically and not with a political agenda. Also, STDs and birth control.
posted by John Cohen at 7:50 AM on April 4, 2016

I sure wish I could articulate a way to articulate this to kids, but I'd like to throw out something that kinda builds on the great ideas above: They -hell, everybody- need/s to know that their thinking brain needs to be the boss. Not the lizard brain. I think a lot of people don't get this- I sure didn't...don't...long story...

The lizard brain tells you that you GOTTA HAVE SEX NOWNOWNOW, even if you know it's risky for a kazillion reasons. The lizard brain tells you to sit and watch him play games that bore you, rather than go do something for yourself. The lizard brain tells you to bully, and to tolerate bullying of yourself and others. Often times (in my experience, natch) the thinking brain thinks that this situation isn't a good thing, this doesn't make you happy, but it doesn't ask why you're still doing it/being there. So it is not acted upon. The thinking brain needs to take over, so this question occurs to you sooner, and maybe you'll act in your real best interest.

Sorry about the sloppy writing- thanks for doing what you're doing
posted by JulesER at 7:51 AM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Before you get started, maybe do two exercises. First, have everyone anonymously submit what they think they know about sex/sexuality/gender through a Google form as a way of gauging existing knowledge or misinformation. Then ask kids to anonymously submit questions they may have about those topics and whatever else they may be concerned about (gender identity, safety, etc). Use those as ice breakers (to demonstrate that everyone has questions and it's okay to not know about sex and all this stuff right away) and/or as a means of guiding your curriculum so that almost everyone gets an answer to their question at some point. You could even leave that form open over the course of the class so that as new topics are introduced, kids can privately ask follow up questions (which will definitely happen).

Kids are taught so quickly to be ashamed of their bodies, their sexuality, their sexual wants, and bodily agency/safety. Maybe you could do an additional component on shame and how outside influences like the media and society reinforce that shame through mixed messages? Like it's okay to not date. It's okay not to be interested in other people or want to kiss or have sex or whatever, ever! That could help a lot of kids slow down if they're feeling pressured to gain experience they really don't want.

Honestly there's so much that you could cover and still keep it kosher for that age group. I mean, shoot, I couldn't call a penis a penis without being mortified until college. At 10, I was more interested in how big my boobs would get and what kind of pain I'd perpetually be in because of my period. You'll get a better idea of how to tailor your curriculum to your students' needs so that they are in a safe space and so they can journey outside their comfort zone without fear to learn more about topics that will help them eventually lead positive and healthy sexual lives (if they so choose).
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:12 AM on April 4, 2016

I don't know what they're teaching the kids about sexting these days, but it's a topic I might expect to see touched on as they're going into high school.
posted by aniola at 8:22 AM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

All great ideas. One point to add: if a person has sex in one relationship, that doesn't mean they have to have sex again. I think many of the girls I grew up with feel into situations where the mindset was, "well now I lost my virginity so therefore I will have sex with every person I date, whether I really want to or not." Also there was a ton of slut shaming in my school, even toward girls who were not necessarily sexually active. This can ruin a girls entire education. It could have made a big difference to hear an adult point out double standards girls and boys face. (If a teacher had said, "if a girl has sex, the boy had sex too! If you call that slutty, the boy is equally slutty!") I'm sure there's a better way to say that, but you get my idea.
posted by areaperson at 8:30 AM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

relationships (including, briefly, homosexuality), sex (briefly touching on contraception)

I'm not sure how to usefully put this, but if you're discussing homosexuality you should really also just discuss sex vs. gender as well as bisexuality, polyamory, etc. Not talk about them but more like "There are a lot of ways to be normal" One of the things I always found off-putting about sex ed (I had some in jr high so I was 11-12) was that it was simultaneously saying "Hey there are a lot of ways to be sexual with people" and then only talk about PIV sex and boy-girl sex (with maybe a small nod to M/M pentrative sex) when they got to the mechanics part. So I'm aware you don't want to get to into it being just a sex talk, but finding a way to normalize the many ways that people can engage sexually seems like it would be a plus.

Also it may be worth thinking about the sobering idea that children may have had sexual experiences at that age that my have been non-consensual and giving them some resources they might want to examine about how to manage those things. This is one of the better resources in the US for slightly older kids, there may be other educators you could interact with who might have other links which were age appropriate to your folks.
posted by jessamyn at 8:35 AM on April 4, 2016 [6 favorites]

Do you cover basic emotional health? "I" statements, that everyone has a right to their feelings (but not to act in any way they want), etc.
posted by salvia at 8:48 AM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'd talk about flirting! Some basic how tos in with a lot of respect and consent context, including noticing when your feelings aren't being reciprocated. Also how to reject someone kindly and respectfully and how to be rejected kindly and respectfully - I remember as a young girl thinking that the only way to reject someone's interest was like girls in the movies - loudly and scornfully.
posted by congen at 9:20 AM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you so much, everybody, for your great ideas and links, which have given me a lot to think about.

To address a couple of points that I should have included: we have a separate series of lessons on drugs and alcohol. Also, I do teach about periods, erections and the like in a mixed gender group, as I agree that it's so important that children know what's going on in the bodies of the opposite sex. We have a question box (a low-tech version of what Hermione Granger suggested!) which enables children to submit questions anonymously, which I then answer the next lesson. I think my favourite ever question was 'Once the egg has fertilized the sperm, how many times a day do the man and woman need to have sex to keep the baby growing?'
posted by schmoo at 9:29 AM on April 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

Seconding mentioning some trans stuff — not to make your cis students more "trans-friendly" or whatever, but because it's very likely that some of your students are trans, and letting them know that transition is an option could save their lives. A few suggestions:

When you're talking about boys and girls having different bodies, mention that trans people exist — that it's possible to change from a boy to a girl or vice versa, and it's safe and pretty common and sometimes people can't even tell you used to be different. I think for a lot of us, just knowing that at an early age would be life-changing.

When you're talking about hormones, maybe mention that one of the things a lot of trans people do is take different hormones, estrogen for trans women and testosterone for trans men.

When you're talking about puberty, maybe mention that puberty blockers exist. (These are drugs that delay puberty. When you stop taking them you start going through puberty again, so it's just a delay. Trans people who can't get hormones or surgery right away sometimes take them so they don't have to start going through the "wrong" puberty.)

For huge bonus ally points, find out the laws around transition for teens in your area and mention them briefly — e.g. "Some people even change from male to female or female to male. You need a doctor's help, and if you're under 18 you need your parents' permission, but once you're 18 you can do it on your own. The way it works is, they give you different hormones..."

(And I would phrase it as "you" rather than "they" if you think of it. Frames it as "this is a thing you could do if you wanted, though most of you won't want to" rather than "this is a thing some weirdos someplace else do, but none of you ever will.")
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:40 AM on April 4, 2016 [9 favorites]

Oh! Also! Mention that some people think trans and gay are the same thing but they really aren't. Some trans people like girls and some like boys and some like both, just like with everyone else.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:43 AM on April 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Not talk about them but more like "There are a lot of ways to be normal"

I cannot favorite enough. If at that age, I'd heard "look, some of you are going to like women, and some of you are going to like men, and some of you are going to like a wide range of folks, and that is TOTALLY OKAY and you're still going to have to figure out who picks up the milk and who walks the dog and who pays for the first date or if you split it", it would have been incredibly helpful, and I didn't have a particularly difficult coming out process. Please don't make being non-straight a "brief" thing, if you're allowed by your district - I know sometimes your hands are tied as a teacher; try to integrate being non-straight into all of your lessons as much as you can and emphasize that many of the relationship issues people face are the same, no matter what.

Also, if you're going to tackle STDs, please make sure they know that women who have sex with women can get STDs.
posted by joycehealy at 10:47 AM on April 4, 2016 [12 favorites]

Introduce the concept of boundaries (in non-sexual contexts as well), talk about what healthy boundaries are, and explain how to assert them. I think the "relationships" part of sex ed tends to get neglected and this stuff is vital, especially for recognizing abuse. I'm thinking of adapting this list of your legitimate rights for children, because I never saw anything like this growing up and wish I had.
posted by thetortoise at 11:12 AM on April 4, 2016

One more thing. There's a deal on the internet where guys are carrying tampons in their backpacks for anyone who needs them. I think this is something to be encouraged. Perhaps you can bring it up in class as a discussion.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:22 AM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Not talk about them but more like "There are a lot of ways to be normal"

It was a huge discovery for me when I, a 50-something cis straight white woman, left my husband and discovered that some men actually preferred gals like me with tiny breasts. (My husband didn't dislike my breasts, he just wasn't into sex generally.)

In short, I hope you can help your students love their bodies whatever they look like and love each part of their bodies whatever they look like. Because just as there are a variety of body types, there are a variety of individuals attracted to different body types.

TV, music videos, the Internet, magazines, etc. show only a very small slice of particular types. Usually white, usually thin, usually big breasted (if female) or with muscles (if male). And that does a huge disservice to everyone and especially children, who grow up to think they need to look like X in order to find love. And that's not true. (My kid, after I separated from my husband: Mom, you need to get your boobs done. You're not getting any younger.)

So please share that, if you can. As well as the big feelings that having sex with someone can engender. No one in my sex ed class ever talking about the feelings of closeness and vulnerability and other feelings sparked by sex. The instruction was all about body parts, nothing about emotions. And that was terrible preparation for the real world.

Thanks for asking this question. Those kids are lucky to have you!
posted by Bella Donna at 11:22 AM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Not just consent but enthusiastic consent.

Apart from actual reproduction, try divorcing discussion of sex acts from the genders involved (e.g. Anyone with an anus can have anal sex, not just gay men).
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:27 AM on April 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

I think it's important to have clear information - especially for women - about what gentitals actually look like and how they function. Discussions about vaginas are often vague - US view here - and it's amazing how many grown women don't even know what their own vulva looks like. Let alone that they may be afraid of their own vagina and of losing something inside their body. It needs to not be a mystery to both (all) genders and is especially important around the time mentruation happens. (I leaned all my stuff from books and friends. The way my schooling overlapped I didn't get sex Ed but I know many many people only discussed the baby making function of a woman's womb and not to get stds.)
posted by Crystalinne at 11:51 AM on April 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Seconding the idea that you should discuss other ways of defining sex than PIV. I am 42 and when I was growing up, we literally never once had a single reference to this in any sex Ed. Don't just talk about male gay sex, talk about female pleasure and the importance of the clit. You have a chance to maybe reduce the number of young men out there who think the sexual world revolves around their almighty dicks.
posted by mysterious_stranger at 1:46 PM on April 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

One thing that I think is suggested by enthusiastic consent is the idea that sex should be enjoyable, that it should feel good. There was something I read recently that talked about the fact that for a lot of heterosexual young women, they have an emphasis of "as long as he enjoys it." Both parties should feel good, and if they aren't feeling good, things need to change.
posted by Hactar at 2:03 PM on April 4, 2016

One of the great things they did for my kid (same age as these) in OWL was to have a Question Box. Every kid was required to put a piece of paper in at the end of each session. If they didn't want to ask a question, they could write down a fact, or draw a little picture instead (this assured anonymity). Then the next class, whatever actual questions there were would get discussed.

Nthing that consent doesn't have to be about sex; you just need to get the idea across that people own their bodies and their decisions, and no one else has the right to force or coerce you in what you do or what decisions you make. I can imagine a fun exercise where someone tries to tell someone else to walk, sit or stand in a certain way regardless of that person's comfort. Or eat soup, or whatever.

Because my kid is this age, we are definitely seeing pre-puberty moods and hormones going on, but also there's this sense that we're on the edge of big changes, and that's scary for adults but even more so for kids. And so much of the stuff that speaks to kids about puberty is negative: it's going to suck, it's going to be dangerous, you will feel bad, everyone hates everyone, etc. And I don't want to gloss over any of it, but as a parent I would want a curricula that gave them courage, that told them they were up to the task, not scared them into paralysis.
posted by emjaybee at 2:11 PM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Lessons on appropriate lubricants for different things. Something I didn't learn until adulthood.
And never but two condoms on because they are more likely to break!
posted by AlexiaSky at 2:30 PM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

One piece of advice I realized at a certain point in my life, that I've shared with some young people and I think it resonated with them: If you might want to be intimate with someone but you're not sure, it's ok to just wait. You don't have to do it now. You don't have to do it yet. You can still do it next week, or next year. Because never once in my life have I truly wished I got involved with someone sooner.... but there have been a couple times I wished I waited longer or didn't at all. Waiting can be very powerful, and can make things more fun. If you still want to tomorrow or next week, odds are better that you'll make a better decision.

To this end, I know a few adults who follow a personal rule of "never have intercourse the first time you logistically can". They'll get intimate, even naked and fooling around- but that first time, they deliberately hold off on whatever their definition of "intercourse" is, and wait til the next time the moment is right. This leads to much less regret and can add some really fun anticipation- I think it's a great practice.

This practice can also help weed out jerks- anyone who's unkind if you say you prefer to wait a little longer probably isn't someone you really want to sleep with anyway.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 2:59 PM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

To expand on my suggestion above (emotional health - e.g., "I" statements), here are a few concepts that I wish had been taught in my high school:

- the components of emotional intelligence

- "bill of assertive rights" (e.g., you have the right to change your mind; you have the right to be illogical; you have the right to make mistakes, handle the consequences of those mistakes, and forgive yourself) (Google this, as there are many versions -- that could even be an exercise, asking students to Google it and create their own personalized version)

- being assertive vs. aggressive vs. passive (again, Google turns up a few different possible handouts)

- strategies for assertive communication

- warning signs of an abusive relationship

- empathetic listening and nonviolent communication (you could easily fill a whole class period with practice)
posted by salvia at 3:22 PM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Don't forget that many people with STDS are asymptomatic. I'm mean atleast where I grew up (with very convoluted ridiculous policies) it was horrific picture show off worse case STD senario but really clean shaven Bob is much more likely to have sex and spread an STD.

And also education on stigma - ultimately most STD and STIs aren't really that big of a deal and some people get some of them without sexual contact (ask me about the time my roommate contracted scabies while sleepingb on a couch during an NA meeting, and the scritchy scratchy itchyness that entailed)

Condoms have expiration dates.

And communication! Sex isn't easy! I wish someone would have told me that.
posted by AlexiaSky at 4:06 PM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh YES, education on the realities of STIs rather than the scare mongering would be great! I'd especially like to see a realistic portrayal of Herpes--how common it is, how medically trivial in most cases, and above all how genital Herpes does NOT deserve stigma while oral Herpes is seen as a meaningless "cold sore".
posted by mysterious_stranger at 4:33 PM on April 4, 2016

It could help a lot to know that relief is available if things get physically painful, headachy, or inconvenient. Believe it or not, some girls will not realize that feeling terrible can be addressed medically.

If you have time to talk about dermatologic options, that would be fabulous.
posted by amtho at 4:46 PM on April 4, 2016

As soon as I read your question, it made me think of a recent interview I heard with Peggy Orenstein, author of Girls & Sex. She talks quite a bit about the importance of girls knowing that their pleasure matters too, and it's something that is often left out of sex ed:

From the CBC Radio transcript:
PEGGY ORENSTEIN: We don't talk to girls about their anatomy and we don't talk to them about their pleasure, basically ever, it's silent. So when kids are born, we're much more likely to name all our boys' body parts even if it's just you know like here's your pee pee, something. But with girls we go right from navel to knees. So when you don't name something it becomes taboo and then they go into their sex education classes, their early classes and they only see the internal parts of the woman and they learn boys have erections and ejaculations and girls have periods and get pregnant. The clitoris is never mentioned. No surprise, fewer than half of 14 to 17 year old girls have ever masturbated. And then they go into partnered experiences. Why would you expect them to feel that they have any sense of entitlement? This is a social justice issue, just the way that who does the dishes in the house is a social justice issue that touches on ideas about equity and economic disparity and violence and all these things. A researcher at the University of Michigan coined this term "intimate justice" that I just loved. And it's questioning these power dynamics in our most personal relationships so, I mean, I think those are sticky issues for adult women, but especially for girls in their early formative experiences. Your early sexual experience should not be something that you have to get over. When we think about sexual satisfaction we think we're talking about the same thing with young women and young men but what research shows, is that we're not. And young women are more likely, not exclusively but more likely to talk to measure their own satisfaction by their partners pleasure. So they'll say if he was satisfied, I was satisfied. And conversely when we're talking about bad sex, the language is really different. Girls talk about pain, they talk about humiliation, they talk about degradation. Boys never use that language not a single young man in the studies use that language.
In Holland--one of the things that I did at the end of the book and this struck me so much not only as a writer but as a mom, because I do have a girl who's almost 13 myself, there's comparisons between Dutch and American college students and the Dutch girls had fewer negative outcomes in their early sexual experiences. They were less likely to get pregnant, they were less likely to contract disease, they had less regret, they were more likely to be sober. They also had more positive outcomes, they enjoyed sex more, they could communicate with their partners....It was interesting because it wasn't necessarily that the parents were more comfortable or uncomfortable talking about sex, American versus Dutch. But, the American parents only talked about risk and danger and the Dutch parents talked about balancing joy and responsibility.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:49 PM on April 4, 2016 [11 favorites]

On the "relationships" end, I think it would be really useful to teach them about the stereotypes about men and women, and that they're not necessarily true. For instance, men constantly want sex and think of nothing else, while women only care about feelings and don't care about sex. Men are interested in women's bodies exclusively, while women are interested in men's personalities exclusively. Men are tough and stoic, women are emotional and soft. I think a lot of people grow up assuming these things are true. It might also be interesting to explore these stereotypes in the context of same-sex relationships. But ultimately, letting everybody know that boys DO have feelings and girls DO have physical urges would be a good thing.
posted by chickenmagazine at 5:44 PM on April 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Along the lines of this thread and this one, I wonder if it would be a good idea to teach kids that potential romantic interest is often signalled obliquely, rather then explicitly, and so it's a Good Thing to have some understanding of:

Someone who is hinting they'd like to know you better vs Someone who is being polite.
Someone who is turning you down vs Someone who is oblivious to your hint.
It can be scary, but it is OK for anyone to ask if someone wants to be friends/meet for a date/whatever.
It's far better to know if your feelings are reciprocated than to be too shy to ask.
Rejection can hurt - learn way to look at it positively.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 8:57 PM on April 4, 2016

I don't know if you've seen this thread about masculinity on the front page of Metafilter yet, but it's powerful and very relevant.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:13 PM on April 4, 2016

If someone is drunk, they can't give consent.

That is false... I can tell you that if you tell your students the above, you'll be misinforming them about the law.

Irrespective of this, it would be a very good idea to let the kids know that if they are sober and the person they're with is drunk (or not conscious in some form), they should probably not go ahead with it because why would you not want someone to be conscious and cognizant when having sex with you? The drinking age is higher in the states than the UK I think so i'm not sure if it's a conversation for 'now'. I can't advise on that.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 6:08 AM on April 5, 2016

Can you talk about difficulties in sex or is that going to be psychologically traumatic? Only it's all well and good making sex sound enjoyable and easy however there are issues such as vaginismus, vulvodynia and premature ejaculation. If they experience them, they should know that it's something that happens to people, it's nothing to be ashamed of and there is help.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 6:14 AM on April 5, 2016

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