Relationships and sexuality education isn’t just for young people, everyone benefits
This month people across Australia are meeting at the Women’s Safety Summit. Sexual and reproductive health is glaringly absent on the agenda.
With intensifying calls to reduce sexual violence, it is important now more than ever to advocate for relationships and sexuality education which promotes bodily autonomy.
We are the generation who have the answers when faced with questions about sexual health.
Everyone has a unique, and at times cringe worthy experience learning about sex.
Typically, students learn at school with either very little or no information. While parents, carers and kinship carers might be expected to fill in those knowledge gaps, it is likely that they too have limited sex education themselves and risk repeating the same series of misinformation.
The state of sexuality education in Australia
The National Curriculum includes relationships and sexuality education. Some parts of the National Curriculum are optional and other parts are mandatory. However, relationships and sexuality education components are optional. It is up to each individual school principal to implement or disregard.
Sex education in Australia is no longer just about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and puberty, it has progressed towards broader themes like bodies, pleasure, consent and relationships.
It is up to each school to implement sex education and it is not evaluated to meet standards and guidelines. Teachers that implement the content in schools receive limited training and curriculum materials are often open to interpretation. Students are frustrated with the limited information they receive, and are calling for sex education to be comprehensive (CSE).
Every body benefits from relationships and sexuality education
We all have unique values, attitudes, and beliefs which are influenced by multiple intersections of our identities such as race, class, ability and so much more. As human beings, we are also constantly evolving. Sex education that we learn about during our youth may not be sufficient as we mature.
Our needs can change and there may be times when we benefit from additional sex education.
Here’s how everyone can benefit:
- Toddlers can learn healthy boundaries through hugging and play
- Children can learn the correct terms for bodily anatomy
- Young people can learn about informed consent
- Adults can explore their own sexuality beyond awkward teenage years
- As we age, we continue to benefit from intimacy and pleasure and need to be careful about STI’s.
At any stage of life, everyone should have the right information to understand their changing bodies, relationships and sexuality, which increases bodily autonomy.
Be an advocate for relationships and sexuality education
In our communities, we can support relationships and sexuality education by holding schools accountable to ensure they adhere to the National Curriculum and call on our MPs to commit to support the rollout.
As individuals, we can have conversations with our loved ones about sex and relationships in the home. Yes, there will be a lot of questions, giggling and awkwardness. But to make any progress, we must get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Sexual and reproductive health education does not only prevent risk of harm, it is a point of early intervention.
As we move beyond the Women’s Safety Summit, we must prevent violence before it occurs.
Every body has relationships and sexuality, and anyone can be an advocate for healthy relationships and sexuality education.
Brenna Bernardino is the Project Policy Officer at Marie Stopes Australia. Her cultural background is Timorese, Portuguese, and Torres Strait Islander. She has worked in research across Indigenous health, health promotion and education in Australia and the United States. Brenna is passionate about reproductive justice, and recently completed her Everyone Deserves Sex Education Sex Educator Certificate. You can follow Brenna on Twitter.