The UK has long lacked any compulsory requirements for sex education, but that changed today. A tiny proportion of MPs voted through a 10 Minute Rule BMotion proposed by the chronically batshit religious nutter Nadine Dorries. The motion proposed the following:
“Sex Education (Required Content): That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require schools to provide certain additional sex education to girls aged between 13 and 16; to provide that such education must include information and advice on the benefits of abstinence from sexual activity; and for connected purposes.”
As the motion was voted through, this means that young women will now be taught about abstinence as a component of sex education. There are numerous problems with this proposal.
Dorries does not explicitly call for abstinence-only education. What is worrying, is that abstinence education is now the only compulsory part of sex education.
Dorries’s attitude towards policy for sex seems to be heavily influenced by two things: a fundamentalist Christian sense of morality and either dire stupidity or wilful misrepresentation of evidence. It is not just sex education she wishes to meddle in: she is also rather fond of twisting evidence to try to reduce women’s access to abortion.
Dorries, then, seems keen on controlling the reproductive freedom of women, as her motion only targets young women. There is still no compulsory sex education for young men of the same age. Young women, meanwhile, will be taught how to abstain.
This is deeply disconcerting. Teaching abstinence to women only suggests that women are the gatekeepers of sex: that it is their responsibility to abstain. This view has damaging consequences for everyone. It teaches men that they are creatures driven entirely by their dicks, and they cannot control their natural urges. It teaches women that they must always be the ones to say “no” to these piggish men and their piggish dicks. It reinforces rape culture, fostering the “no means no” notion.
Societally, what Dorries has proposed is disastrous.
More MPs need to propose more bills making comprehensive sex education compulsory, going beyond simple birth control into education about sex and rape and consent. People need to learn that sex is absolutely tremendous fun if you do it safely; that as long as everyone involved is consenting enthusiastically, there is nothing wrong. Knowledge needs to be taught: pregnancy, STIs, contraception, abortion. Skills need to be taught: contraception use, saying no, and saying yes.
With all of that compulsory, Dorries’s motion will be unproblematic. Abstinence is the best way to prevent pregnancy and STIs. However, as a good fucking is really, really fucking good, many will not make this choice, and abstinence education does nothing to address the nature of sexual consent.
Dorries needs to stop controlling women. It is for the good of everyone.