How much should children be taught about sex?

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Charlie

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(By schools, that is)

Right, read this:
Sex education: why the British should go Dutch - Times Online

And then for a different opinion from the fear-mongering Daily Mail:
Now schools introduce a sex guide for your six-year-olds | Mail Online
(Read some of the comments too...)

The articles are referring to fairly recent plans for schools in the UK, but discuss the idea more generally.

I think an honest approach to sex is probably a good idea, and I think we should be more natural about sex generally. I think it's only right for children to be taught about sex, the only people who are going to be traumatised are some parents!

But with that said, when I was in Amsterdam this year the openness to sex did seem very strange. Walking around the red light district in the day when children were around too seemed bizarre.
But then clearly the Dutch are doing something right.

I think it's wrong to say that it's "too much, too young"... children are like blank slates, they aren't affected too much by the assumptions of their cultures.

Why do you think?
Do you think things such as homosexuality/S&M/fetishes should be taught in schools (not necessarily to children)?

Sex education in my primary school was non-existent, expect for a one-off video we saw once. In secondary school it was quite vague, and towards the end of secondary school it was just ironic, since (what seemed like) most of the class had already taught themselves about sex practically.
 
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I think children should be given honest knowlege about sex, I have raised three children and my wife and I gave them information as they inquired about it. Sex info is no different than any other subject, your goal as a parent is to create well rounded knowlegable individuals who can think for themselves. I belive a lot of early sexual activity is caused by curiosity, and a lack of knowlege can lead to a person being taken advantage of with misleading or wrong info. This must be taught in school because some people will mistakenly think thier children are safer if they know nothing, but that is false because they will gain a little info from other peers, media etc, just some of it will be wrong. You do not want your children to make important decisions based on false info.
 

Takashi

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I think sex should not be tought to a child intil they reach middle school so that would be around 11-12. I think it's up to the parents not the school, and this is coming from someone that was watching sex ed videos at 10.
 

Zekk

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In my school (middle school) we have sex-ed in PE. It's call Personal Hygiene and there are no girls in the class, only guys. What they tell us is mostly to abstain from having sex until we are married. We also get taught about STD and AIDS, but they can't tell us about using protection because that would be promoting sex experimentation. Weird? My friends and I already know about sex anyway. So what's the point of telling us about something that almost everyone knows? I think they should tell us about how to use protection because I know there are a lot going on even in my class and also with kids younger than me. It's the lack of knowledge about using protection that gets people in trouble and those who are responsible for giving us the proper information should share a lot of the blame.
 
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Boogeyman

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Teach them early. It'll keep them from making retarded jokes in middle school.
 
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I think teaching 6-7 year olds about sex is a bit much. Maybe if it were taught as part of a lesson on anatomy. I didn't get a sex ed class until my 12th grade year (18 years old), which just shows how pathetic public schools were when I was growing up. I think sex education should be taught at age 9-10.
 

mizzycub

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I personally think that not nearly enough is done. What is was for me was a teacher reading from a book that explained nothing when I was 10. I came out of that knowing no more than I did going in.

Then when we were 13 we looked at it in biology - but that was from an entirely biological view point - we don't look any further than what the apparatus was made out of.

We didn't look at it in any detail until we were 16, at which point we have gone past the age of consent.

The best age for it to have been covered would have been when I was 10, maybe even earlier. Beyond that age you become increasingly immature and self conscious about such things, until eventually you reach an age where you go beyond that at which point it is usally too late. Perhaps not the nitty gritty details but more than the When Mummy and Daddy love each other very much they hug in a special way rubbish we got. Also, stuff about contreception and STIs needs to be done earlier as well. I didn't realise how little I knew until I was taught it at 16 (past age of concent = too late).

I personally think "too much, too young" is far better than "too little, too late" and don't see where the taboo of sex comes from in the first place. It is a perfectly natural thing.


I think kids should be aware of the fact that there are different sexualities, and should be taught that there is nothing wrong with that. If there is an emphasis on tolerance it is more likely the children will pick it up. As for fetishes and so on - there existance should not be denied and they should not be criticised if the topic comes up but the idea of acceptance should again be emphasised. I don't think a point should be made of mentioning them however, at least no more then in passing. If it were to be covered then perhaps that would be a good topic to cover with older teenagers - it requires a certain level of maturity that the physical process of sex or stuff like STIs or contraception does not. Those are quite factual whereas fetishes and so on are more likely to result in an almost entirely open ended discussion - that sort of discussion over that sort of topic requires a maturity that I doubt younger kids could bring, even if they understood the topic.

EDIT: When I saw this thread, this is the first thing I thought of. Hope you enjoy: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=wwo8qxUit00
 

teddy564339

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I think the whole sex issue is a really tricky one. It's hard to say what the best way to do it is because there's no way to know the best one until you've tried everything in every situation.


I've always felt the main problem with sex (at least in the US...in other countries I don't know if the issues would be the same) is the consequences that come from people having unprotected sex. Overpopulation, people becoming pregnant when they're not ready, and the spread of STD's and HIV are all big problems associated with sex. In addition, I think there is something to be said for self-control concerning sex, just like anything else.


So one argument I've heard a lot is that the reason why people have so much unprotected sex is that they're never taught about protection...if we educated our children early about sex (or if we teach them about protection and whatnot in our public schools), then they will have less unprotected sex, which alleviates the problems that come with it.

There's probably something to this idea, but I do think some people take it too far. I really don't think just because people are educated about safe sex means they're going to go out there and use condoms all of the time. Sex is particularly a problem because people get so caught up in the moment...if everyone thinks sex is ok as long as you use a condom, then they might have sex more often..and in the moment ditch the condom.

In addition, we teach our kids about eating healthy and exercising and the dangers of smoking. Does that stop our kids from becoming obese or smoking in high school? For some, yeah...but to say just because it's taught in school will change the way everyone behaves is naive.


Ultimately, I think it should be up to the parents. Every child's situation is unique and parents know that best.


The reason why I'm not greatly against the abstinence-only education is that if a parent wants to teach their kid that protected sex is ok, they can do that....I don't think the abstinence-only part undermines that, it's like an extra part. But if schools teach that protected sex is ok and a parent doesn't want their kid to have sex at all...the kid is going to think "well, my teacher said having sex is okay"...and it kind of undermines what the parent thinks. So basically, I view the abstinence-only way as the safer way as far as it correlates with what parents want.


On the other hand, I do think that schools should teach more about homosexuality at a young age. I think homophobia is the root of all problems associated with homosexuality, and that if children were taught at a young age that gay people are just as "normal" as straight people, then there would be a lot less of it. True, it wouldn't have as much of an effect if the kids don't hear the same from their parents...but at least it would be a positive step.

Now I know you might be thinking I'm contradicting myself on these two issues...in one case I'm saying it's ok to undermine parents, in the other I'm not. The difference is that in the sex situation, I think there's no definite right or wrong, that it should be up to the parents. In the homosexuality one, I think it's wrong for a parent to teach their kids that homoosexuality is bad. It's kind of like race to me...some parents might teach their kids to be racist, but I don't think that means that schools can't teach against racism. It's the same with homosexuality to me.
 

ballucanb

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Kids should be tought everything about sex in school, that way there wouldn't be as many unwed mothers due to the lack of education.

And alot of the guys think they know it all, and are afraid to ask anyone in there family,or anyone else, I'm speaking from my own experience here, but with the use of the internet things are better now then when I was a kid.
 

Fire2box

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It depends on the kid's age, mentality, religion and parents. All of that seams to play a role in it I think, that's as simple as I can put it.
 
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Peachy

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I certainly agree that sex ed for kids should be intensified, more realistic and detailed and provided at a younger age than it is now. I'm always surprised and appalled at the fact that, in discussions about masturbation and orgasms, a significant number of members on this forum admit that they had no clue what was happening when they experienced their first orgasm. That certainly shows a severe lack of sex ed in those people's lives.

Ideally, we'd be treating sex like the knowledge to speak a language or to drive a car: The child should not be lied to ("babies are brought by the stork") and should get to experiment under the guidance of the parent ("say 'mooommy'!" when the child is trying different sounds). Most certainly, any child can consult their parents for advice on matters concerning language or how to drive a car and any parent will be more than happy to help. So ideally, a parent should be equally open minded and helpful in matters of a sexual nature. And the first article Charlie linked portrayed that kind of idea put into practical use.

However, sex is not like driving a car, or learning a language, so there are differences and special problems that have to be addressed, and in my opinion, the application of the sex ed idea in the Netherlands as portrayed in the article Charlie linked has either gone to far, or the article was poorly researched and written and does not reflect real life.
Anyway, here are some problems I can see:

(1) Little kids do not need a detailed instruction on sexual matters, just like they have no use to know the technical knowledge of what a clutch is and does in a car. I totally agree that telling your kids that children come from a stork or just appear out of nowhere is wrong. Kids do explore their own body and obviously are aware of their sexual organs, so a basic introduction what they do and what part they play in the reproduction process can't hurt.
Kids at that age don't really have any sexual feelings, so parents shouldn't get into a talk about the fun aspects of sex. So they should always make it absulotely clear that only adults can have kids and that the kids will have to wait until they're an adult themselves to do what they've learned about sex. Surely, it's not too hard to teach the same rules that apply to alcohol or driving a car - "you're too young!". It's the easiest way to ingrain into a young kid's brain that they shouldn't think about having sex any time soon, and to fend off any attempts from others to get the kid involved in any such actions.
Kids at a young age don't really have sexual feelings, so this would be the perfect time to learn about their own body and the body of the other sex. This may sound weird, but the best situation to learn about things like that would be for the whole family to sit together naked and explain the various body parts in a hands-on approach...and I mean that quite literally! :eek: It's the easiest way for the child to learn the difference between boy and girl and child and adult - breasts, penises, testicles, pubic hair...easy to explain when the child can see (and if desired) touch it. And keep in mind: The child does not have sexual thoughts, and the parents damn well should not have any either, so the creepiness of a situation like that should only be in an outsider's perspective.

(2) As a child gets older, the parents should get into more detail about how sex works. Obviously, the child has to know quite well how babies are made - i.e. the whole sperm fertilizing the egg-thingy, and where the involved parts come from. If the child understands how it works, (s)he will be able to apply it him-/herself later in life and know when it should not be applied. In addition, the dangers of sexual activities should be discussed here and measures to prevent them - condoms, abstinence, cleanliness and so on. The child has to understand that sex may be fun on one hand, but can cause a great many complications on the other hand. If the child understands the risks, they should be able to judge by themselves whether or not sex is worth the risks at the time they are given the opportunity.
Obviously, the childs has to know about the risks and rewards before they develope a significant sex drive of their own. I would strongly suggest to also talk about masturbation as a way to get the reward without the risks and maybe even actively encourage the child to pick up that habit.

(3) What I didn't like about that article about sex ed in the NL is the details they go into when it comes to the rewards of sexual actions. No young child has to know that "anal sex hurts at the beginning but if you persevere it can be very pleasurable" (to quote the article). Let the kids experiment on their own - it doesn't take a genius to figure out that your mouth and anus can be used for sexual actions. Don't overfeed them with information only a doctor or biologist could possibly have any use for. Instead, once again, give them a general idea of what's save and unsafe and let them decide on their own if they want to go through the pain of taking a penis up their rear end. Surely, they have a mouth to say "pull it out!" :tongueout:
The older a child gets, the more important it is for parents to concentrate on giving guidance and being a knowledge base for the child. Ideally, the child should seek answers from their parents rather than from their peers or other sources (the internet) when it comes to questions about sex. Still, there are some lines I would rather not cross, such as providing a "sperm sample" for when my daugher wants to know what sperm looks/feels like (as discussed by the linked article), or allowing my son to jack off in the back seat of the car on a long drive because I encouraged him to masturbate when feeling horny.

In addition, sex remains a difficult topic in society. The child of a family that is 100% open with their kids in terms of sex (where the parents never close their bed room door and the child regards their own as well as their parents' sexual activities just as a normal regular routine like brushing teeth or drinking alcohol) may find it more difficult in today's society than a child from a prudish family where sex is never mentioned...ever.
Young children generally haven't developed a sense of modesty and blurt out anything they think/know, so the child will definitely create some rather awkward situations when talking about sex in public. In addition, the child may be a bad influence on the peers because the other kids may extract information on the fun parts of sex from the knowledgable child but not about the risks involved (children aren't awfully risk-aware, as we all know).
And last but not least: When the childs is too knowledable about sex, authorities may think that the parents are abusing the child. So the parents' behavior may bring the Child Protection authorities to investigate further and ask embarrassing questions.

The benefits of early sex ed have already been mentioned in the article:
- Less teen pregnancies
- less STIs
- less sexual abuse because, in an abuse situation, the child knows what's going on and knows it's only for adults and will either tell the parents or try to stop any action on the spot

So, in essence, I'm (once again) for a middle ground: More sex and and from a younger age, adapted to the child's cognitive senses and interests. Don't turn the child into a doc or biologist though - leave him/her time and opportunity to explore.

Peachy
 

Jeremiah

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Excellent question, Charlie F. There is 2 extremes which should be avoided. Too much information too soon will ruin the child's innocence. To little information too late is equally unhelpful.


EDIT: When I saw this thread, this is the first thing I thought of. Hope you enjoy: YouTube - A bit of Fry & Laurie - Sex talk in class
That is a very funny video. I am still wondering who is the boy's father.

Teach them early. It'll keep them from making retarded jokes in middle school.
Good luck with that one...


At age 17, I attended a church youth group meeting that was entirely female except for me. The usual group leader was absent, and a 22 year old girl substituted. She decided to ensure that everyone was properly informed about sex. The youth group was teens (age 13-19) and had about a dozen people there that night. The youngest was about 14. I was amazed at how in depth that discussion was taken. Most were unaware of how easy it can be to get pregnant. Just about everyone there had already had some experience. This was the most shocking.

With that being said, it is my opinion that children should not be left ignorant on such an important topic. Untruthful answers only expand their ignorance. When the child is old enough to start asking questions, the discussion should start. At no time should the child be left wondering. By age 5, most children have already noticed a difference between men and women. There is nothing wrong with knowing what those differences are. At age 12, no child should have to sit through a class explaining it.

Waiting until 10% of the girls have already gotten pregnant is a little too late to teach a proper sex education course. Teaching safe sex practices to 8 year olds is probably a little early. Since public schools are unable to tailor the lesson plan to each student, the schools should try to tailor the course to provide age appropriate information. Over half of the students should find the information new and relevant.By age 12, most of us have discovered our "kinks" and are left alone in our ignorance. A brief overview of sex, fetish, and sexuality should be provided when most are just starting to discover such things. Provide sufficient information to ensure that the students are aware of the topics without giving to much. For those who need additional information, provide anonymous resources (such as book titles) to those who want it. When I discovered encyclopedias, I was pleasantly surprised at the wealth of information. Diapers, incontinence, and fetishes were all described.

Leaving such an important topic unknown is asking for problems.
 

Grutzvalt

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At six, they don't need to be taught anything, because they won't understand HIVs/AIDs, probably don't know what an erection is, and have no reason TO know, because they don't have sex or issues "down there" yet. Maybe 10 years old should be the right time, because chances are, they will start noticing things "down there", and lets face it: Its awkward for a parent to explain this kind of stuff! I don't think any kind of kinks/fetishes should be taught, but kids should be taught that people have different interests. I also think that if marriage is taught, then both forms of marriage should be taught.
 
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My school had sex ed first in 5th grade and it went on in various forms untill 9th grade (health). I mostly spaced out during that class but I remember we did talk about fetishes; some kid bought up armpits.
 
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BabyMullet

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Well humans are sexual, even children. A healthy, honest discussion about sexuality from any age is good and I think ideal. No one really know to what depth the discussion should take place, although everyone knows what to not discuss with children. I think Peachy hit the nail right on the head, that was an excellent post.
 

Boogeyman

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Isn't sex natural? Just tell the little mutherfuckers when they figure out that babies aren't dropped off by some stork that doesn't love them anymore. And make sure to walk around naked so it won't be so awkward.
 

mizzycub

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Jeremiah said:
That is a very funny video. I am still wondering who is the boy's father.
You probably know him best as Gregory House M.D. :rolleyes:
 

Squigma

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I've never really understood why people seek to shelter children from sex so much. It's a natural, and very important, part of life, and I can't see anything wrong with explaining it to children. They shouldn't be having sex, or watching porn (although, if I'm honest, I'm not sure why not - but that just seems wrong), but I don't see how just knowing how it works can take away anyone's innocence.

I still agree that it's good for children figure some of it out for themselves, but we need to make sure they understand the basics - and not in some silly way that overuses euphemisms and metaphors - I think the only reason people find it so awkward to talk to their kids about sex is because their parents found it awkward to talk to them.

Really, we just need to break the cycle and just explain to children (I'm not sure what age, but 6 seems old enough to me) exactly what sex is, before they get the wrong idea about it. Then, when they're old enough, they can go and enjoy it in a sensible and informed way. It's quite a simple thing really, society just has a way of overcomplicating it.
 
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Hey, if whatever the Netherlands is doing is clearly working, then why not teach kids early? Sure, to us, it might be taboo, but maybe it would not be such a touchy subject if it was wildly known and discussed about...
 

kite

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just be realistic. we're all born with male and female sexual organs. the feeling of shame and embarrassment should have been gone with the 80s. kids by 5 years old should be taught sex and hiding it or invalidating it by giving non answers just means either you're not a good parent or you don't believe your kids are able to comprehend. either way it is foolish.
 
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