Child One had a few of her friends round the other day and they were watching Bad Education, with Jack Whitehall. If you haven’t seen it, you should – it’s funny for all the wrong reasons, and therefore quite irresistible. I watched it the first time round with Child Two, when One was all out at GCSE revision and had no time for telly or any other distractions. Apparently it’s different with AS levels. Erm, aren’t they meant to be harder? Oh well, what do I know? I’m just a parent who’s tottered through the education system myself. ‘But that was hundreds of years ago,’ the girls point out. Why, thanks.
Anyway, the assorted teens, all around 17 years old, were merrily watching away, while I was in the study with the door open, earwigging of course, but discreetly. The episode they were watching was on sex education, and obviously it would have been way too squirmy for all of us if I’d sat there amongst them. Ughh. Perish the thought.
So the episode rumbled on, with Alfie (the world’s worst teacher) desperate to impress his inamorata, the beauteous biology teacher, with his huge amount of knowledge on the subject (not). All goes swimmingly, until the French exchange students arrive. They turn out to be Dutch, super-cool and way more knowing about sex than Alfie and even his highly precocious pupils put together. For some reason, Alfie invites questions from the audience (which includes a bunch of horrified parents), when a likely looking Dutch lad pipes up, ‘during foreplay, I like to strum the clitoris.’ There are quite a few confused shouts of ‘what’s a glitoris?’ from the bad boys at the back. I was sniggering away in the study, when I heard one of Ella’s girlfriends say, ‘but what is a glitoris?’
I was stunned, to say the least. It soon transpired that she had no idea what it was even when it was pronounced properly. And she wasn’t the only one.
Let’s put this in context. Every year since she started in secondary school, Child One has had at least one day devoted to PSHE. I can never remember what the acronym stands for, but it’s basically sex education. The girls’ school is in the London borough of Lewisham, which has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe, so they tend to labour the point, as it were. Well, they seem to have covered reproduction – Child One even seemed to do a GCSE in the menstrual cycle. I tell you, there is nothing she doesn’t know about lutenising hormones, follicles and glands. But the school teaches them nothing about pleasure, apparently.
Is this to make sure they don’t think sex might be an interesting thing to try? Is it a cynical way of keeping down those pregnancy figures? Or is it part of the old, old idea that women are not supposed to enjoy sex? I read Lucy Mangan’s column in the Observer a few days before the girls came round. She said her mother, a doctor who talked on sex ed in schools, recently despaired when it seemed that girls had no idea that sex was supposed to be nice for them as well as for boys. Is it this dehumanising internet porn, that’s supposed to have had such a catastrophic effect on boys? Is it very, very low expectations in girls? Or is it educators trying to put everyone off (as if that is ever going to work)? Whatever the reason, I find it very sad. Of course, it’s nowhere near the evil of female circumcision. But female oblivion isn’t much good either.