This myth-bust was inspired by yesterday’s debate about sex and relationships education on the BBC’s Sunday Morning Live. You can watch it on iPlayer here.
On the show Lynette Burrows, ‘family rights campaigner’ claimed that sex education in schools is ‘unhealthily obsessed with destroying childhood innocence in a way that’s reminiscent of paedophilia.’ She accused sex educators of ‘talk(ing) dirty to little children’ and described SRE as ‘a stranger in a classroom showing (children) dirty pictures’.
She was backed up by Nick Seaton from the Campaign for Real Education who claimed that primary school education included ‘explicit details of male and female genitalia’ as well as, outrageously, non-judgmental teaching on heterosexual and homosexual relationships.
Although a lot of tosh was spoken on the show, it’s this disgust with telling children the names of their body parts which we want to focus on today. Presumably the ‘dirty pictures’ Burrows references are things like diagrams of male and female reproductive organs. We’re not talking pornography here but likely illustrations of labelled genitalia showing the vulva, vagina, urethra and so on (and yes, there are still plenty of young men and women who don’t realise that women have more than one ‘hole’). We would argue that in fact, telling young people what the different parts of their body are called is not about destroying children innocence. In fact it gives them the appropriate language they need to describe their own body parts. Body parts they can see every day just by looking down! Body parts they may well need to talk to a doctor (or yes, a lover) about one day. Such language is particularly important for the recognition and reporting of sexual abuse. Through sensitive and evidence-based SRE children can learn which sort of touching is appropriate in which situations.
Alice Hoyle (who also appeared on the show as an actual sex educator) has written a great blog about this with loads more detail. We suggest you check it out. Another teacher adds her thoughts here. Oh and do visit Scarleteen for more information about (and ‘dirty pictures’ of) male and female gentialia.