Playwright Neela Doležalová blogs for SH:24 about the amusing and thought-provoking new play that she’s bringing to Vault Festival in London this month and about that lesson in school with all the bananas (no, not home economics).
Over a whole year, Neela asked friends and strangers questions about the sex education they received, and they shared their memories and stories.
From 2019, all schools will have to teach Relationship and Sex Education (RSE). The Government is still deciding what will go into this new curriculum. Will it be inclusive of all sexualities and genders? I hope so. Will it just be about protecting young people, or will it also talk about pleasure? Let’s see.
What was your sex ed like? Was anything missing?
These are the words of a Year 10 student I interviewed for my play ‘The Talk’. She was talking about what ‘society’ had taught her. Her formal sex education never challenged these messages.
In my research for ‘The Talk’ the stories started to sound like a broken record: the 90-year-olds didn’t get much sex ed, and neither do many of today’s teenagers.
I’ve met students who think washing with Diet Coke after sex prevents pregnancy, and I’ve heard of young girls washing with Dettol because they think there’s something wrong with them. These myths are still out there. And that’s probably the tip of the iceberg.
Getting a bit too Goldilocks in the classroom
So, how much sex ed do any of us actually need? On this topic everyone has an opinion and it gets a bit ‘Goldilocks’: too much, too little, or just right?
I believe that some students are still getting ‘too little’ sex ed. It’s a risky game. If we aren’t given reliable and trustworthy information about our bodies, relationships and sex, then we look for this information elsewhere.
This is what someone in their twenties said to me.
Practising talking about sex and relationships is super useful because it builds confidence. For example, knowing the names of our body parts isn’t just a ‘biology lesson’ – it gives us a way of talking to our partners about what we do, or don’t like, when it comes to pleasure. It also gives us language we can use at the doctor’s when we need advice, whether we’re sexually active or not.
That’s why I called my show ‘The Talk’. It’s a show for adults, because adults need to stop feeling awkward when it comes to talking about sex. As one mother says in the show: 'sex can’t still be like this forgotten, forbidden subject that we don’t talk about.' And yet, so often it still is. So let’s get talking, and listening!
‘The Talk’ is on at VAULT Festival on Thursday 15th and Friday 16th March 2018.