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Sex and relationships education – young people’s views

 

Introduction

I conducted an on-line survey to find out what young people are being taught in sex and relationships education, and what they want to be taught in sex and relationships education.

Brief summary

Almost everyone said schools should teach young people about relationships.

Most people said they had learnt about contraception and protection.
Some people said they had learnt about the responsibilities of becoming a parent.
Only a few people said they had learnt about rape or domestic violence.
Very, very few people said they had learnt about safe-sex for same-sex couples.

Almost everyone wanted to learn about all the topics listed
The topics that most people wanted to learn about were rape, domestic violence, and safe-sex for same-sex couples.
Fewer people wanted to learn about the responsibilities of becoming a parent and how to talk to their partner.

People also said that they should be taught about LGBT+ issues and consent.

Detailed results

Fixed answers

The vast majority of respondents (96%) thought schools should be teaching about relationships. Of the remaining five people, three thought schools should not teach about relationships, and two didn’t know.

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About three quarters of respondents said they had been taught about “Different types of contraception and protection”. About one third had been taught about “The responsibilities of becoming a parent”. Approximately one in ten respondents had been taught about “Building relationships and talking to your partner”, the “Warning signs of an abusive or violent relationships and how to get help”, and “What the law says about rape and sexual assault – how to report them to the police or get other help” (13%, 9% and 11% respectively). Less than 4% had been taught about “Safe-sex for same-sex couples”. Finally, 11% of respondents said they did not know what they’d been taught.

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Most respondents thought that all of the topics listed should be taught.  “What the law says about rape and sexual assault – how to report them to the police or get other help” had the highest level of support, with 97% of respondents agreeing it should be taught. “Warning signs of an abusive or violent relationship and how to get help” was only slightly less popular, with 96% of respondents supporting it. “Different types of contraception and protection” had 95% support, “Safe-sex for same-sex couples” had 89% support. “Building relationships and talking to your partner” had 87% support, as did “The responsibilities of becoming a parent”.

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Free-text answers

More than one in three of the respondents used the free-text boxes to make their own suggestions for things that should be taught in sex and relationships education. There were some trends in these suggestions.

Nineteen respondents thought that there should be discussion about LGBT people and the different issues associated with identity. Of those, four specifically referred to asexuality[1] and two referred to polyamoury[2] Five people believed that the “many” types of gender and sexuality should be discussed in sex and relationships education, including people who don’t identity as male or female, and people who don’t identify as straight, gay, bi or lesbian.

Fourteen people thought that teaching about consent should be about more than a legal definition of rape and sexual assault. They wanted sex and relationships education to include ideas such as “enthusiastic consent”[3] withdrawing consent (how and why people might do this), how to negotiate and set boundaries with a partner, and why drunk/coerced/drugged consent isn’t really consent.

Other suggestions of topics to be taught included

–          Pregnancy options e.g. abortion/adoption (6 people)

–          Discussion of porn, how it differs from real-life etc. (6 people)

–          STIs / HIV  (6 people)

–          How to refuse sexual advances (5 people)

–          What real bodies look like, including genitals (4 people)

–          Discussions of what sex is that include more than penis in vagina intercourse (4 people)

–          Discussion of masturbation, dispelling common myths e.g. it doesn’t turn you blind or make your penis fall off (3 people)

–          Reproduction, fertility and infertility (3 people)

–          Delaying first sex. (One person said until after marriage, one person said until in a long-term, committed relationship)

–          How to discuss sex / pregnancy with parents (1 person)

–          Emotional abuse and manipulation (1 person)

–          That sex isn’t immoral, even when not in a committed heterosexual relationship (1 person)

–          Sexting and its dangers (1 person)

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[1] Asexual are people who don’t feel sexual attraction – for more information try  http://www.asexuality.org/home/

[2] Polyamoury is having or wanting sexual or romantic relationships with more than one person at a time. For more information try http://www.polyamory.org.uk/

[3] Enthusiastic consent is the idea that you need more than your partner not saying “no”. Instead, you should want to be in a position where they are saying “Yes!” clearly and enthusiastically. It includes asking what your partner wants if you’re unsure, and not pressuring someone into consenting (i.e., 50 “No!”s and one “Yes…” probably isn’t enthusiastic consent.

The respondents

There were 135 respondents. The survey was completed on-line, and advertised via facebook, twitter, and various blogging and writing sights.  The last page of the survey included the British Youth Council’s standard equal opportunities questions.

Age – 124 people answered this question

None of the respondents were under 12
6% were 13-15
11% were 16-18
35% were 19-22
23% were 23-26
25% were 27 or older

Gender – 123 people answered this question

75% of respondents were female
20% were male
3% were other
2% preferred not to say

Ethnicity – 123 people answered this question

66% were White British
14% were another White background
4% were African
2% were Caribbean
2% were Arab
2% were Indian
2% were Dual Heritage Asian and White
2% were Any other Dual Heritage background
1% were Chinese
1% were Pakistani
1% were another Asian background
3% were other
3% preferred not to answer

Nationality – 117 people answered this question

79% lived in England
7% lived in Scotland
2% lived in Wales
1% lived in Northern Ireland
12% preferred not to answer

Sexuality – 122 people answered this question

49% were Straight
10% were Gay women or Lesbians
21% were Bisexual
4% were Gay men
15% were other
5% preferred not to answer

Disability – 123 people answered this question

11% were disabled
87% weren’t disabled
2% preferred not to say

Of the people with disabilities…

32% had a learning difficulty or disability
21% had a long-term or life-limiting illness
42% had mental health issues
5% had a sensory disability
26% had a physical disability
11% had multiple disabilities
16% preferred not to answer

Employment / education / training – 124 people answered this question

32% were employed
7% were not employed
58% were in education / learning
7% were self-employed
5% were volunteering or doing internships
2% were doing “other”
1% preferred not to answer

Qualifications – 123 people answered this question

7% had no qualifications
1% had qualifications bellow Level 2
7% had qualifications above Level 2
4% had AS Levels / Scottish Higher
29% had A Levels / Scottish Advanced Higher
24% had an undergraduate degree
24% had a postgraduate degree
5% had another qualification level
1% preferred not to answer

Religious belief  – 122 people answered this question

66% had no religion
16%  were Christian
3% were Muslim
2% were Buddhist
3% were Jewish
10% were other
3% preferred not to answer

Other issues (part one) – 46 people answered this question

59% had low-incomes
48% victims of bullying
9% at risk of exclusion
4% young carers
2% lone parents
4% in temporary accommodation
9% preferred not to answer

Other issues (part 2)  – 51 people answered this question

12% had problems with numbers / maths
10% had problems with reading / writing
59% had mental health issues
12% had workless households
16% lived in isolated rural areas
8% had alcohol issues
2% had drug issues
33% had problems in their relationships with friends / family / partners

In Northern Ireland – 4 people answered this question

25% were members of the Protestant community
50% were members of the Catholic community
25% were members of neither the Catholic nor the Protestant community

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