Making informed decisions about sex is vital for young people yet, in many countries, sex education is confusing, limited or even overlooked altogether.
What kind of sex education did you receive in the classroom? Was it an awkward slideshow containing more euphemisms than you could possibly comprehend? Or was it a series of lessons covering not only the relevant biology, but also sexuality, gender and reproductive health?
According to the UN, the latter is still quite rare, which means the majority of young people lack the knowledge they need to make informed decisions.
In our recent podcast on the importance of sex education, we heard that young people who received good quality sex and relationship education were less likely to start having sex at a young age, and less likely to become teenage parents.
What was your experience of sex education? We asked readers what kind of lessons they received on the subject. Here’s a selection of responses.
Sex was largely ignored
“I received none. It was just a discussion with my roommates at boarding school. In biology classes we were taught reproduction, but there is a clear difference between that and sex education. One chemistry teacher digressed during a chemistry class and told us about how some girl got pregnant from sitting on the toilet seat in a public toilet.” Ona, 34, Nigeria
“Sex education was mystic during my younger years. In our place the best word for sex was kufanya tabia mbaya – Swahili words meaning bad manners – and it was rarely spoken about. In school the most sex education I got was in my science and biology class, where we learned about the reproductive system and STIs. The rest you got to learn on your own. The sex education was rather wanting and more should be done to create awareness.” Anonymous, 22, Kenya
“Sex education at my Catholic school was rather limited. Once a pupil asked a question and our teacher said, ‘I am a miss, not a mrs, and therefore I am in no position to answer that question!’ And that was that.” Rose, 30, Scotland
“I think it would be fair to say that no one in that classroom understood what we were being told. There were lots of stories about virtue and chastity, but I think the teacher was afraid to say anything about sex itself, in case we got so excited we’d all start doing it that night.” Joyce, 28, Nigeria
The demonstrations were confusing
“My RE teacher came into the room holding a large knife and two apples. She sat at her desk and, after a brief period of silence, started to cut up one of the apples in her hand. She started to talk: ‘Every girl is an apple. Some apples hang high in the tree, and get all the good sunlight and nutrients. These are virtuous apples. Some apples, however, hang low in the tree, where men can easily walk by and pluck an apple off the tree and take a bite of their juicy flesh. But after a man takes a bite of an apple, he doesn’t keep it. Instead, he throws it to the ground, where it will wither and die.’ She went on like this for the rest of the hour, continuing to chop up the apple in her hand, basically telling us, ‘Don’t be a slutty apple’.” Sophie, 21, UK
“It began with a demonstration. A piece of Sellotape was wrapped around one person’s wrist, then another’s, then another’s: ‘Sex is like Sellotape; if you use it with too many people, you lose your stick’.” Anonymous, 22, UK