Ireland’s sex education curriculum should include conversations about sexual violence and domestic abuse, according to a leading sex educator.
On The Hard Shoulder this evening, Dr Caroline West said the sex education curriculum remains hopeless outdated, with children in certain schools left to learn off their peers or the internet.
She was speaking after influencer Roz Purcell said the sex education in Irish Catholic schools while she was growing up “didn’t help anyone.”
Speaking on Angela Scanlon’s Thanks A Million podcast, Ms Purcell said that, at one point in her teens, the confusion saw her asking a doctor for the morning after pill even though she had not had sex.
Dr West told Kieran Cuddihy that it is high time the curriculum in Irish schools was updated.
“The current curriculum was invented in 1990 so obviously things have developed quite a lot since then,” she said.
“We have things like, how do we manage our digital sexual lives and talk about things like image based abuse or digital flashing – all of those kinds of things.
“I think Roz’s experience is really, really common and it must be very scary for a young person in that situation to think, ‘oh my gosh I might be pregnant I don’t know what’s going on, I don’t know what options are available to me.’
“All of that comes from fear and when we have silence and we don’t talk to young people appropriately about sex, their minds fill in the gaps.”
She said the lack of proper sex education leads to people trying to learn from the wrong places.
“People want information about sex and they may go to the internet or they may hear it in the playground and they hear all these just wrong things,” she said.
“That leads to people like Roz in her situation and it is not really fair and it is not really the world we want to live in.
“People shouldn’t have that fear and panic around sex. There is no need for it when we do have options like contraception and things like that.”
She said the current curriculum is also not inclusive of people with different genders and sexualities.
“It comes from a fear-based approach of danger and disease as opposed to sexual wellness and how people can calmly have conversations about things like contraception or what happens if your contraception fails,” she said. “The things that young people actually really do need to know.”
She said she does not expect the new curriculum to deal with sexual violence and domestic abuse – something she deems a “real missed opportunity”.
“Our young people absolutely need to know about that because we do know from research that young people are experiencing those things and we don’t want to leave them to be dealing with that on their own,” she said.
“It is a real pity that they are not taking this opportunity to really create a different future for our young people and really empower them to spot a health relationship and an unhealthy relationship and empower them to make informed choices around that.
“It is a real pity because we do have an epidemic of sexual violence Ireland across the age spectrum and one way to tackle that is through education at a young age. It seems like a real missed opportunity if that is not included on the curriculum.”
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