Essay: Sexuality and Social Control

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Sexuality and Social Control

Sex education should teach "chastity and virginity before marriage and faithfulness and loyalty within marriage" (Islamic academy) How does this view fit within current debates about UK government policy on sex education?

The values of chastity, virginity and loyalty within the marriage are elements that seem to be sadly lacking in many school sex education policies and programs. It appears from an overview of the critical literature that the emphasis in modern sex education policy in the United Kingdom is on aspects such as HIV / AIDS, contraception and STDs or sexually transmitted diseases. These are aspects that are referred to as the mechanics of sexuality.

There is feeling in some quarters of the society that in governmental sex education policy in the United Kingdom there is an overemphasis on certain aspects at the expense of others; on prevention and detailed knowledge, rather than on moral, ethical and marital concerns. This is the view that will be examined in this paper with regard to the sex education policies and practices in the U.K.

Therefore, the current debate that will be explored with regard to sex education revolves around two central argument or points-of-view. This refers to those who feel that teaching the mechanics of sex and protection against disease and infection as a result of sexual contact to children constitutes adequate sex education. On the other hand, there are those who feel that sex education should not just be about the mechanics of sex but about deeper and more moral issues, such as the importance of chastity before marriage.

In fact there are those who are of the opinion that teaching children just about the mechanics of sex tends to promote sexual activity and promiscuity. From this point-of-view sex education should rather be about understanding how sex relates to larger issues such as love and understanding and the importance of traditional views of fidelity and marriage and the various responsibilities related to sex.

2. The reality of sex education policy

Some of the central elements that constitute the government policy on sex education in England are as follows. Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) in schools is intended to teach children and young adults "…about sex, sexuality, emotions, relationships and sexual health." (Sex education in schools) Among the topics that are included are;

the importance of marriage and stable relationships how to avoid teenage pregnancy how to recognise and avoid abuse and exploitation skills to avoid being pressured into unwanted or unprotected sex the benefits of delaying sexual activity and avoiding risky behaviour the importance of safer sex

(Sex education in schools)

It is important to note that the while the first objective above would seem to indicate an emphasis on the understanding of relationships, the other points are mainly concerned with the mechanics of sex and protection against diseases and other risk factors.

The are numerous studies and reports that suggest that the sex education policy in the United Kingdom has fallen very far short in terms of traditional concerns relating to the promotion of aspects such as the importance and meaning of virginity before marriage and chastity. One report entitled Sex education failing to halt teen pregnancy by Laura Donnelly states that,

Every year, almost 50,000 girls under 18 fall pregnant, leading critics to claim that government-led efforts to encourage safer sex are backfiring. The number who conceive is at its highest level since a multi-million-pound teenage pregnancy crackdown almost a decade ago.

(Donnelly, 2007)

This failure of the sex education policy is also admitted by the authorities, as one report cites; "Ministers admit - in a document quietly released before the Christmas parliamentary recess - that the 2010 target to cut teenage pregnancies is doomed to failure." (Donnelly, 2007)

One of the reasons that commentators give for this failure is that an emphasis on protection and detailed sexual information at a young age tends to increase promiscuity rather then reduce it. This therefore suggests that a more successful and relevant education policy should be based on moral and ethical values. As will be discussed, the reasoning behind this approach is that sex education needs to be based on an understanding of wider concerns, such as relationships, fidelity and family, in order to have an impact on the youth.

However, at present, in terms of the present sex education policy, there is little incentive given for the promotion of aspects such as virginity and fidelity and a greater emphasis on aspects such as contraception. This situation is summed up by Norman Wells, of the Family Education Trust charity, who has stated that the Government had allowed the "systematic removal of every restraint that used to act as a disincentive to under-age sex." (Donnelly, 2007)

It is also important to note that during the past ten years there has been an increase in the number of school sex education programmes promoting an understanding of 'safe sex'. Furthermore, Girls as young as 13 are even being offered sex advice by text message; "… they tap in questions on their mobile phones and receive answers from sexual health workers." (Our sex education policy is a disaster. So what does this Government do? Extend it to 5-year-oldshttp) The central concern here is the government policy in expounding sexual information to younger children is actually increasing sexual activity at a younger and younger age.

3. Morals, religious and family vlaues.

Therefore, the central argument against the present policy on sex education is that it does not deal with sex within a larger moral framework. Sex is taught as if it had very little to do with issues such as social and religious norms and traditional values, as well as respect for one's sexual partner and the social importance that many cultures ascribe to chastity.

The separation of sex from the context of values and morals in increased by many aspects that we encounter in everyday society; for example, the sexual images prevalent in the media and which often depict explicit sex. According to many experts this has in fact "…broken down the natural inhibitions of children about sex, while progressively easier availability of contraception meant that young girls could no longer use fear of pregnancy as a reason to reject sexual advances…" ( Donnelly, 2007)

Another very important factor that related to this problem and to the issue of sex education policy is that there has in the last few decades been a dramatic decline in the cohesion and significance of the family in modern society. This is also the case in the United Kingdom. This is an important factor as it means that many children grow up without being exposed to values such as family unity, integrity and fidelity between partners. This in turn increases the negative effects of an education policy that mainly stress mechanics and protection. As one report on the issue states,

More and more families are becoming unstable and fragmented. Yet instead of shoring up the married family - the best antidote to irregular behaviour - the Government is ruthlessly undermining it by promoting the idea that all lifestyles are equal.

(Our sex education policy is a disaster. So what does this Government do? Extend it to 5-year-olds)

In other words, what the above quotation refers to is the view that the present government policy is suggesting that morals an ethics do not need to have a place in sex education and that any form of relationship is the same as another. This could be interpreted to mean that a relationship only based on sex without love and understanding has equal worth and validity when compared to a relationship based on love, trust and respect for shared values.

The point that is being made is that by trying to include all and every style and type of relationship, sex education policy is forgetting that sex and marriage are related to social customs and moral structures that make sex meaningful. This view is clearly stated by the archbishop of Wales.

Government policy addresses the "mechanics" of teenage sex and pregnancy but fails to teach children about commitment…Young people should be taught that "parenthood is an awesome responsibility that requires both love and self sacrifice from parents committed to the child and to one another… (Archbishop: sex ed should teach love, not mechanics)

4. Summary and conclusions

The central aspect that this paper has intended to explore is why there is no reference to chastity and virginity and other related aspects in the governmental sex education policy. The answer that has been given from the point-of-view of many commentators is that governmental policy has in effect divorced sex from larger moral and ethical issues; and that these values and morals are essential if sex is to be taught in context and in terms of relationships and responsibilities. As the Archbishop of Wales has emphasized, "…schools should not simply inform young people about "the mechanics of a sexual relationship and contraception divorced from the basic concepts of love,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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