Sex education overhaul a grim necessity

23:00, Nov 05 2014

As the Ministry of Education prepares to overhaul its guidelines for sex education in schools, it is pleasing to see something productive and positive result from the Roast Busters ordeal.

While many Kiwis remain riled that no charges have resulted from the alleged rapes committed by a group of young men who celebrated their exploits on social media, the Ministry at least appears responsive to select committee recommendations to overhaul sex education and ensure teenagers are prepared for sexual scenarios that go beyond birth control and "No means no" mantras.

Fuelled by a raging booze culture and media technology, the risk of sexual assault, peer pressure, poor judgment and shaming has ensured "unsafe sex" has taken on connotations few teenagers would have contemplated a generation ago, when unwanted pregnancy and STDs were the primary sex ed concerns.

Of course, rape and misogyny were not absent from the community, but they were not part of the classroom conversation.

And they certainly weren't recorded, broadcast and shared on devices that could fit into a front pocket.

What the guideline changes will hopefully do is put some attention on the crux of the issue: young men treating young women appallingly.

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Yesterday we reported on the campaign of three Palmerston North Girls' High School students for sex education classes to extend to consent, sexual abuse, emotional challenges and what would be considered a healthy sexual relationship as opposed to a violent one.

They also wanted to extend mandatory classes to pupils beyond year 10, which we think is a no-brainer.

These are the pupils most likely to be experiencing these issues, or at least be more aware of them, and have more to give and gain from the discussion.

But it is with teenage boys we are most interested in seeing progress made.

In a guest column last Saturday, feminist commentator Deborah Russell wrote how the failure of the police and the justice system in the Roast Busters case reflected society's own failure. Rape victims routinely faced more scrutiny than their alleged perpetrators.

In the Roast Busters case, 25 of the 30 alleged victims chose not to make a formal complaint for fear of being bullied and the rigours of a trial, whereas the young men involved were bragging on Facebook and the police, initially, paid it scant regard.

It's a sad indictment on mankind to suggest some teenage boys need to be taught in a classroom to respect females. Sadder still is the reality that they need to be "untaught" the misogyny their family, friends or society has instilled in them.

Manawatu Standard