A few months ago I read a fantastic article by the wonderful Cindy Gallop – it was part of a larger piece asking a variety of experts in their fields, what essential life lessons were missing from young people’s education, and what did they wish they had been taught in school. Her answer was something that I had never really considered before – despite what I spend my days discussing…
“Young people should be taught about sexual values”.
In the article Cindy spoke of the fact our parent’s and teachers bring us up to have good manners, a work ethic, a sense of accountability – however this never extends to the bedroom… I wonder why this is…
“Empathy, sensitivity, respect, kindness, generosity and honesty are just as important values when it comes to sex as they are when it comes to an other area of our lives and work where we are actively taught to exercise those values”. This is a really interesting point of view, especially considering all the discussions these days around rape culture, sexual harassment and banter…
However, if we openly promote good sexual values, and good sexual behaviours as a matter of course – in the same way we encourage young people to hold open doors for others, to share, or to simply say please and thank you… In no time at all, they can quickly become standards of behaviour and will undermine the negative attitudes that underpin rape culture.
Ever since reading this article this is a question I make a point of asking the young people I work with, and it opens up amazing conversations – once they get over the initial confusion about what you are talking about. I have had a number of conversations around pleasure, risk, responsibility, what sex means, and what they want or are looking for from the sex they are having.
(Below: whiteboard brainstorm of a groups sexual values…)
Unfortunately, when it comes to sex we are often very quick to take our clothes off without always thinking about what we want or what we need. Even if we have thought these ideas through by ourselves, we are rarely brave enough to talk them through with any potential partners. That would be far too embarrassing…?!?
But just think about the possible conversations it opens up:
Whose responsibility is your pleasure? Is it your’s or their’s? Should they be held accountable if you don’t enjoy yourself, especially if you haven’t told them what you like…?
What about risk? If you catch an STI from a partner whose responsibility is that…? What about pregnancy?
What does sex mean… do you have to be in love? Is it about fun & pleasure or is it an expectation of your relationship…?
What about respect? Can you treat someone equally respectfully if the encounter is a one night stand apposed to a long term relationship…? of course you can.
Thinking about what our sexual values are should be a key starting point in our conversations with young people… so start asking and encouraging young people to develop their bedroom manners, not just their table manners!