Students asked to consider sex acts in school guide
The Australian, August 19, 2016
A new sex education guide being promoted by the research institute behind the Safe Schools program provides students with explicit descriptions of more than a dozen sexual activities.
La Trobe University’s Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society this month launched Transmission, a film with related educational activities that introduces its Year 10 audience to a range of highly sexualised terms that have not previously been canvassed in sex education curriculums.
The resource is written by the centre’s Pamela Blackman, a former Department of Education and Training employee who has written or consulted on a range of sex education resources endorsed by the Victorian government.
While the resource is centred on a film about HIV and sexually transmitted infections which was partly funded with a $15,200 grant from the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, one of the accompanying activities focuses on sexual pleasure.
In one classroom activity, students are asked to consider a list of 20 ways of “engaging in sexual pleasure” to determine which activities they “think might be okay”. They are then asked to sort each sex act by their level of comfort.
Ms Blackman acknowledges in the explanatory notes that the exercise might prove confronting for teachers and students.
“Sexual activity, for those ready to engage in it, should be a good experience, not an experience full of fear and guilt,” she writes. “I think it’s important to recognise that sexual activity is pleasurable as well as normal.”
A focus on pleasure in addition to risk appears to be an emerging development in sex education.
As is the widespread acceptance that not all students identify as heterosexual.
Research released by the University of South Australia earlier this year revealed that students wanted less repetition of the biological aspects of human sexuality in their sex education classes and more “explicit and accurate” information about intimacy, sexual pleasure and love.
The report, “It is not all About Sex: Young people’s views about sexuality and relationship education’’, claimed that boys in particular wanted more information about how to have sex, different types of sexual acts and pornography.
Those findings contrast heavily with research done by the La Trobe centre that surveyed secondary school teachers on the same topic. The accompanying report, co-written by Ms Blackman and released in 2011, found that the pleasure of sexual behaviour was taught by less than half the teachers surveyed.
It pointed out that most sex education classes focused on fact-based topics around reproduction, birth control, HIV/STIs, safe sex as well as managing peer pressure, forming healthy relationships and decision-making around sexual activity. Abstinence remains a key theme.
The explicit nature of the centre’s latest resource has been questioned by Australian Catholic University’s senior research fellow Kevin Donnelly.
Among the handouts provided to students is a list of sexual terms including “analingus”, also known as “rimming” and “scissoring”.
“Penetrative sex” is described as “when a penis or object is inserted into the vagina or anus”.
“Most parents and teachers would feel they’ve really gone overboard with this,” Dr Donnelly said.
“The reality is the pressure is on young people to be sexually explicit and adventurous already but that doesn’t mean we have to endorse that by what we teach.”
Family Voice Australia national policy officer Damian Wyld said that many 15 and 16-year-olds had not engaged in sexual activity and classroom activities like this could be distressing.
“The Andrews government should place parents’ minds at ease by immediately ruling out any use of this program,’’ he said.
A spokeswoman for Victorian Education Minister James Merlino would not comment on whether there were plans to endorse the resource, saying only that it was not part of the department’s resources.
The La Trobe centre and Ms Blackman declined to comment.