The Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE) Association have drawn up a document hoping to enhance “healthy and non-abusive relationships” in young people. The government wants to change the mindset of young individuals to change their attitudes towards one another with regard to sex by teaching eleven year olds the importance of consent. I think sex education is an essential that society needs to build on, so welcome this addition to the curriculum.
The focus of these specific lessons is teaching children about sexual consent. Age eleven might be too late – but these consent lessons are ones we can ill afford not to have. To illuminate the scale of this issue, universities all over the country, including Cardiff, have zero tolerance policies regarding sexual harassment. Specifically, however, the idea of this new legislation is to tackle the fact that if young people haven’t learnt that no means no by the time they leave for university, perhaps they should be targeted at a younger age.
As a child, when caught stealing you are taught that it is wrong to take what isn’t yours. When caught cheating you are taught it is wrong to lie. But when a small boy is caught pushing a girl over in the mud, well, he is talked of as liking her but not knowing how to show it. This carries on throughout their socialisation, and in turn creates a society where if a person is wearing a provocative outfit or flirted with them prior, well the aforementioned person is pretty much fair game. This is the behaviour the legislation is setting out to stop.
And it’s not just children who are being taught right from wrong. We live in a country where our most prestigious universities, such as Oxford and Cambridge, have mandatory sexual consent workshops. While I agree that the zero tolerance policies at universities are fundamental and valuable to the safety of students, I personally believe that we’re in a pretty bad situation to need them in the first place. No one should have to be taught that no means no, just as much as you don’t need to be reminded that murder and theft is wrong as well. This is what needs to be taught to children at a young age so that they can understand what is a healthy relationship and what is an unhealthy one before they themselves are part of one.
There have been many discussions regarding whether consent can be taught, but truly, isn’t there one major way to find out? Wouldn’t you rather your child is taught about the emotional aspects of sex before they race to go do it? Maybe if many people my age had that information, perhaps there would be fewer incident of attacks at university, and maybe less ‘mandatory workshops’ teaching people the simple fact that no means no.