MEASURES WHICH PROMOTE HEALTHY SEXUAL DEVELOPMENT – PART 3
Illustration: Jens A. Larsen Aas
Listen to a read-aloud version of the text on this page
3. SEX EDUCATION
Sex education might be the most important component in the universal prevention of harmful sexual behaviour. Several subjects in the Knowledge Promotion Reform 2020 contain competence goals regarding sexuality and sexual behaviour, meaning this will be a topic throughout primary and secondary school.
Positive relations and safety are requirements to educate about sexuality. Assured adults with a high competence in sexual behaviour can provide honest and precise answers, which is necessary to successfully convey the subject. Sex education should contain topics like love, emotions, identity, respect, values, boundaries and relations, birth control and diseases. Teachers have the rare chance to converse regularly with pupils on these topics.
If the person teaching sex education is someone the pupils do not have daily contact with (i.e. the school nurse), the homeroom teacher should be present during the lesson and follow up on the subject afterwards.
Some pupils will, due to cognitive and developmental issues, need customized learning and teaching arrangements to ensure they get something out of the education.
The sexuality of teachers and pupils
COMPETENCE GOALS IN SOCIAL STUDIES
Grade 2: “The pupil should be able to discuss emotions, body, gender and sexuality, and how to express and respect their own and others’ boundaries”
Grade 4: “The pupil should be able to discuss boundaries in relation to the body, what violence and sexual assault are, and where to go for help if one is exposed to violence and sexual assault”
Grade 7: “The pupil should be able to reflect on the variations of identities, sexual orientations and gender expressions, and their own and others’ boundaries in relation to emotions, body, gender and sexuality, and discuss what actions one can take in the event these boundaries are broken”
Grade 10: “The pupil should be able to reflect on how identity, self-image and personal boundaries evolve and are challenged in different social settings, and give suggestions on how to manage outside influences and unwanted acts”
Values and attitudes
Healthy and unhealthy sexuality
What is okay and what is not
Age of consent
How to be a good romantic and sexual partner
It’s okay to say no!
Image sharing and social media
Consequences of sexual assault – for both parties
Pornography (fiction and reality)
Read a transcript of the audio recording
I think teachers run the risk of becoming a meaningful adult to many pupils, and many pupils experience difficult things and seek the support of an adult. It may be a bad situation at home, problems with the friend group – anything really, including sexuality and stuff surrounding sex. A professional adult being responsible for children should, in my opinion, be there for pupils voicing their troubles, and I include sexuality in that.
Our values and attitudes affect our actions, thoughts, and reactions upon meeting something, as well as what interventions we choose to enact in those meetings. I think it beneficial to be somewhat aware of what values and attitudes you possess, and how they affect you. Well, we probably aren’t aware of every belief we hold, but for example: what is your stance on homosexuality? Where do you stand in regard to questioning sexual orientation? What about testing things out, both as an adolescent and as an adult? Friends with benefits? Sex reassignment surgery? I’m just throwing these out to get a reaction, obviously. The point is different people have different reactions, which in turn are based on their values and attitudes. How you respond to children wondering the same things hinges entirely on how aware you are of your own stances, I think.
I think good values and attitudes to have are things like valuing openness over closing off. Answering a child with “I don’t know this, but I’ll look into it for you” rather than silence, for example. This ultimately affects how or if you talk about sexuality, too.
Teachers in conversations with pupils probably feel obligated to answer even though they don’t know the correct response to a question. “What can I say to this?” Is it alright to be a little personal, or are you expected to be personal? It’s difficult to know.
The point is not for all teachers to be capable of having lessons on sex at a moment’s notice, but rather be an adult capable of dealing with a child or adolescent asking for help about a difficult situation. It is important to handle these situations delicately, whether the trouble is at home, in the friend group, or has to do with sexuality. Responding with deflection, minimizing, or signaling to the child that this is not something to speak about, is bad, in my opinion. A better, healthier response would be “we’ll tackle this together, I’m very happy you chose to tell me, now let’s see what we can do about it”. This response is healthy and also respectful towards the child.
The digital world is constantly evolving – last year it was TikTok and Snapchat, who knows what will happen next year. I personally find it really hard to follow the trends, as an adult.
Nils: I gave up a long time ago.
Steinar: You’re definitely not the only one, haha. However, I don’t think we should endeavour to always be on top of the trends and know everything that goes on. If we instead focus on being adults children can come to with anything – including difficult things – it will be easier for the children to approach us when they need to.