The Department for Education in the UK has decided that sex-education should retain it’s non-statutory status, so schools can opt out of teaching it if they choose. As a result of this laissez faire attitude, one in four pupils currently don’t receive any sex-education at school and 25% of those who do receive some are critical, both of the content and of way it is taught.
That’s hardly surprising when you consider that the curriculum for primary schools omits the names for external genitalia, and the teaching of contraception is delayed until Key Stage 4 when pupils are 14-16.
Teaching sex education is, of course, primarily a parental responsibility, but all parents are not created equal and schools play a vital role in educating children who’s parents are either not willing or not able to provide them with the guidance that they need.
When it comes to sex-education, the brouhaha about biology means that chemistry, sexual chemistry that is, gets entirely overlooked. This is terribly naïve because, lets face it, young people don’t start having sex because they want to work out ‘what goes where’. They do it because they are overwhelmed by the intoxicating effects of a sensation that is more pleasurable than any class A drug.
When you fall in lust, nothing compares to the rush of ecstacy, the gut wrenching anticipation, the dizziness, butterflies, diminished concentration, annihilation of appetite and obsessive daydreaming. It’s the most exciting all absorbing experience that ever happens to any of us, and yet we understand so very little about it.
Scientists have managed to map our genetic blueprint. They understand the subtleties of hormones and the complexities of the emotional brain, but the thing that makes two people click remains a mystery.
Dr Helen E. Fisher, research professor in the department of anthropology at Rutgers University believes that sexual chemistry originates in the parts of the brain that make dopamine, the hormone that creates feelings of elation, energy, craving, motivation and obsession.
Hormones, testosterone primarily, but also oestrogen, are thought to trigger feelings of lust while oxytocin and vasopressin get the blame for bonding.
Other research suggests that we sniff each other out like animals because pheromones, scents secreted by the sweat glands in the armpits and pubic hair can be picked up by the Vomeronasal organ, a small chemosensory structure in the human nose.
Still more research suggests that we are attracted to people who look like our parents – please God don’t let that one be true – or who have opposing or complementary personality types to ours.
Sexual chemistry is a sensory UFO, but no one could argue that for the majority of teenagers, the science of sexual attraction would make an infinitely more interesting afternoon discussion than an hour of irregular French verbs.
Finding, keeping and evolving a decent relationship is probably the most significant thing most of us can ever hope to achieve in a lifetime, yet the education system places more emphasis on algebra than life skills which would prove so much more useful.
When I was sixteen I learned that Pi was a mathematical constant approximately equal to 3.14159.
I didn’t learn how to relate to the opposite sex, how to say what I meant and mean what I said, how to differentiate between lust and something that might endure, how to avoid making the same mistakes over and over again, and ultimately, how to survive the highs and lows of love and sex and still believe that there is such a thing as a happy ending.
I have yet to apply my knowledge of Pi.
Suzi Godson 16.4.13