How the RSE I got in school let me down

a boy in school writing something down

The theme of Sexual Health Week 2021 is Consent: Do You Get It? In this blog, we hear from Ethan Haw , a Brook Champion aged 19, about how limited RSE meant he had to learn about sex and consent on his own, and what he thinks RSE should include to properly equip young people with the knowledge and confidence they need.

I’ll be honest here when I say the sex education I was taught in school was bad. In year 5 it was a lesson around puberty where the boys and girls were separated. This actually doesn’t help anyone (to the lads, periods aren’t gross btw). When we were separated, we had a five minute talk on what boys go through during puberty which was an understatement. This really wasn’t enough time to understand how my body would change. 

I needed more detail and I wish everyone had been included so that we could all understand what other people might be going through. This would have created a lot more understanding and acceptance.

When it comes to actual sex ed it wasn’t until I was around 14 that we started to get some information. So in the meantime I had to figure some things out for myself. When it comes to things that we were taught about, it was next to nothing. We got taught how to put a condom on a dildo/demo (like, seriously), and we weren’t taught anything about different types of sex or even that the word ‘sex’ can mean different things to different people. It really wasn’t enough time, and when we did have more sex ed lessons we just went over the same thing. We certainly did not learn about consent and that communication is key in any relationship. 

Thinking about relationships and keeping safe, I remember at one point the girls were taught about grooming and the boys got nothing. 

It’s so important that everyone learns about consent because all young people deserve to be informed and to be protected from harm. 

Separating boys from girls also causes stigma so we should open up the conversations between genders. 

When it comes to teaching people about these subjects it takes time, and it is important that the group really understand the messages, so it shouldn’t be taught as a one-off lesson; it should be a continued conversation. As I said, because I didn’t get enough sex ed at school I had to find out lots for myself. Luckily this was easy, especially in our age using Google or YouTube. 

But it is important to not rely on just one source or the same source of information when using online platforms, and it’s important to make sure the source is reliable when it comes to the facts. There is a lot of misinformation out there.

I really like Hannah Witton. I could watch her videos and it made having these conversations or thinking about it with other people normal. I learnt from her videos how to have a laugh about these topics while talking to your friend/partner, but also how to make them serious. But not everything we see or read online supports how we learn about these topics, in fact it can also be harmful. 

I think it’s very important to be open and honest about sex and relationships and to have these conversations in the classroom, or wherever it helps to open up the conversation between people when it comes to sex. This can definitely help people to understand consent but also things like the ‘do’s and don’ts’, which can help people feel more comfortable and you also learn a thing or two that you may not have known about.  

Such a normal and important thing in life shouldn’t be so much of a taboo, and better education can make such a big difference to people’s lives.  

I would hope that people are taught about healthy relationships, including consent, from a young age. It is important that everyone knows how to be open and honest with each other. And good sex education can really support young people and adults to build their confidence around the topic of consent and understand how and when to ask for help if they ever need it. 

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