The Daily Mail quoted Safe Schools Alliance in its recent report on the Family Sex Show, which was due to be held at the Theatre Royal in Bath. After considerable public protest, including a petition signed by 38,000 people, the show was cancelled. It did however go ahead as a private performance. We do not know how many children were present.

Safe Schools Alliance believe that children have a right to accurate information regarding puberty and their bodies. This should be delivered in an age-appropriate way and with sensitivity. The Family Sex Show and its accompanying material, however, was extremely unsuitable.

For an analysis of the dangers of breaking down barriers to adults discussing sex and sexuality with children, see our post on Girlguiding and Asexuality.

The Guardian published a defence of the Family Sex Show from its creator, Josie Dale-Jones. We felt this was an irresponsible misrepresentation of the concerns of the people protesting, including those of our organisation.

We submitted the letter below to the Guardian’s Letters Page, but they chose not to publish it, so we are reproducing it here:

In the platform afforded to Josie Dale-Jones in her recent article “Cancel culture? My play was shut down by rightwing activists before it even opened”, she makes fallacious claims about safeguarding campaigners. 

Safe Schools Alliance were unashamedly outspoken in our criticism of her project “The Family Sex Show”. 

We are non-religious and apolitical. Our focus is entirely on child safeguarding, a vital set of protocols Ms Dale-Janes clearly ignores. We have no connection to Citizen Go. 

Criticisms of the play included its “supporting activities”: perhaps you would like to ask children in your family to Google “animal masturbation”, or craft genitals out of playdoh to fill the time before school and bedtime. We understand these activities have now been removed from Ms Dale-Jones’ website, but the fact they were deemed suitable in the first place raises significant red flags. 

We would now urge her to spend less time in her ill-informed protestations and more on reflection, which is a very important aspect of safeguarding. 

In her play she asked adults to simulate sexual acts, appear naked, and discuss sex in graphic detail in front of children. It is baffling that we need to explain why this is way beyond “not appropriate for children”. Children cannot consent and at the very least, this will lead to grave confusion about whether strangers are allowed to show them their genitals. 

Good sex education is key – and we fight for it every day –  but it needs to be done in an age-appropriate way with an understanding of the realities of grooming and child sexual abuse. This show is harmful to all children, not least those children who may be attending who have experienced abuse.

Tanya Carter and Tracy Shaw, Safe Schools Alliance UK

2 thoughts on “The Family Sex Show

  1. Family sex show – three words that should never be said together.

    Thanks for your work here SSA

  2. The health and safeguarding boundaries between adults and children exist for a reason – the vast majority of adults will never pose a threat to children but the boundaries remain. Why? They remain because a small but significant minority of adults (particularly males) do pose a threat to the physical and psychological health and well-being of minors. In both its delivery and content, RSE in schools must reflect this, in order to help children and teenagers navigate the considerable risks they now, all too frequently, encounter – particularly in the era of ‘boundary destroying’ social media and internet pornography. Much of the responsibility for sex education must rest with the parents/carers but schools and RSE providers, can play a vital role in providing additional support or in flagging up concerns, especially if the child is experiencing abuse within the family. The school, however, must work with the parent/carers at all times to provide support and only exclude them in exceptional circumstances eg when suspected abuse is believed to be occurring in the family and the child requires immediate protection. Clear boundaries based on best evidenced child development needs and risk assessment, should dictate the content of and ‘appropriate age’ profile for, RSE in schools. Ideologically driven, adult initiatives, based on removing boundaries between adults and children, are not appropriate. There is a world of difference between unthinkingly celebrating ‘sex positivity’ for example, and thinking critically about the content and consequences of such a concept, In school RSE, the emphasis must always be on evidence based, risk analysis and critical thinking. Boundaries exist to protect minors – we support children and teenagers, by explaining why we need them, not by ignoring them.

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