A few weeks ago a situation occurred to me that made me think, do we teach boys and girls different things about sex? Are we more lenient with one over the other? Should we be teaching them the same stuff? And what should we even be teaching them?
Do we teach boys and girls different things about sex?
Well yeah, I guess we do. Should we? Yes and no. Of course there are things that are directly going to impact individuals more because of their gender, but that doesn't mean that it is reserved for just them. I believe everyone should learn about sex, their own body and bodies in general. It seems silly, and somewhat naive, to only teach boys the stuff that's going to happen to their body, or vice versa. Why wouldn't we teach everyone everything we know? I mean firstly, bodies are bodies. The way they grow and develop should be something we celebrate, because they're bloody amazing. I also feel that when we can understand what people are feeling or going through it makes it a lot easier to communicate. We can't have conversations if only half of the population fully understand.
Puberty, and growing up in general, can be terrifying. When we hold back information all we are doing is potentially making people more confused, because let's be honest at some point these children will be seeing other bodies. Tell people what is going on, explain so they can understand themselves and others around them. And I honestly think we're still scared to teach our children, which is stupid when nearly 50% of 11 - 16 year olds have watched pornography online. Surely it's better for them to be taught in a real, education setting than through the internet.
I don't see any reason to not be teaching sex education to everyone. Not only does it raise general awareness, but we are also facing a hugely progressive era. With the LGBTQ+ community forever growing and more people are feeling confident enough to speak up about their sexuality, we need to be teaching better sex education. It needs to be inclusive. If children aren't aware of things, that potentially apply to them, how are they meant to grow up and understand themselves? How are they going to develop into the best version of themselves if part of them doesn't exist? And I know someone is probably reading this thinking that Im forcing sexualities on children, Im not. Let them be who they are. Your child is not going to become trans because he is taught it and if they do, who cares?
People should learn about people. All people. Education, around the board, needs to be inclusive and that includes sex education. So from an academic, biological, teaching point of view yes all children should be taught the same stuff.
Stereotyping is where my issue lies. I feel like we still assume certain behaviours from boys than what we do to girls. From what I see, boys are seen as the assertive ones whereas girls are perceived as passive, and almost like they're stupid. When we talk about notions such as consent, we seem to express these very differently depending on what gender we're discussing. Im going to be blunt, we know that under 16 year olds are having sex. You can feel however you want about that, but its true. And the more we deny that it's happening, or teach kids these ridiculous ideologies the more dangerous it becomes. Sex (most of the time) isn't dangerous, and let's be real its probably not going to be for the individuals were talking about.
The age of consent is 16 (in the UK anyway), that means that anyone under 16 does not have the full capacity to understand sex. But there's a loophole. If two 14 years old both consent to a sexual act then it counts, because their general understanding of what happened is more than likely going to be the same. They're the same age, they use the same language, so the likelihood is that they both did understand and could make some informed consent. Legally, there kind of isn't an issues. That being said, there is generally a social issue. A lot of the time, regardless of age to be honest, we always assume that the guy will know more, or be more insistent or pressure the female into in some way. I mean we could look at statistics to back this up yeah, but if we are always teaching boys that they're the assertive ones, and that girls are the submissive ones, then how are they meant to know any different? You're telling people how they are going to act before they do it
Kids are never going to act for themselves if we are forever telling them how they should be. This isn't helpful to anyone. Firstly, it just reinforces completely irrelevant sexist gender stereotypes. It also puts pressure on kids to grow up and to understand things well ahead of their time. Like I said above, I do think we should teach sex education to everyone and it should start in primary school. But I'm not saying we teach them everything at once. What happens when a 15 year old boy doesn't understand as much as his 15 year old female peer? What happens if he is the pressured one?
I do fear that boys don't speak out, because we know that happens across the board with men. Men do not open up as much as women do about mental health, abuse or sexual assault and the male suicide rate is an alarming display of that. We raise boys to think they should already know and that they should be the tough, dominant ones. We educate boys into thinking that manliness is their only identity. We squeeze boys into boxes of masculinity and when thats threatened they turn into men who struggle in silence. That's the worst of it all. No one should feel like they can't speak up, but people do and it's because we push them down.
Let's imagine that 15 year old boy again. A sexual act has happened with a female peer, they both consent at the time but on reflection he didn't fully understand what was going to happen. He feels uncomfortable saying no or telling her to stop. I don't know, Ive never been a 15 year old boy but I can imagine thats pretty tough. That situation alone would be horrible, but now let's add the stigma he feels he will receive if he tells his other male peers that he didn't like it, or didn't feel comfortable. Even expressing that he didn't understand would be awful. Yet if the situation were reversed, we would almost be forcing the girl to even suggest she didn't consent.
We protect girls in some ways, but we're letting everyone down. What you expect, or who your children are should not be explained by their gender. They are who they are regardless. People are people, some are nice and some are not. Gender doesn't have anything to do with that. The only thing that can predict that is the way they are raised, taught and loved.