Further to our review of the School of Sexuality Education’s (SoSE’s) academic paper, Play Doh Vulvas and Felt Tip Dick Pics, we review here SoSE’s book: Sex Ed: An Inclusive Teenage Guide to Sex and Relationships.
The publisher’s aim was to give a copy of this book to every single secondary school in the country. Schools usually welcome free resources, and as we have seen, many school librarians will uncritically endorse anything if it has a rainbow on it.
There are many issues with this book, however this review examines both its departure from Government guidance and its failure to safeguard arising from elevating equality, diversity, and inclusivity above the safety of children.
It is important to recognise that whilst this book is not an ‘educational resource’ used in lessons, and therefore not aligned with any Key Stage in the curriculum, school librarians have historically separated books according to their target ages for the purposes of safeguarding. However the authors here attempt to circumvent age appropriateness: although the front cover states it is for teenagers, inside it clearly says:
“The average age to start puberty is eleven if you have a womb, and twelve if you have a penis…If you’re worried that changes in your body are happening very “early”…”
It is therefore evident that the authors anticipate that girls around the age of 10 and boys around 11, will have access to this book. As librarians’ training now appears to be geared towards promoting spurious notions of inclusivity over considerations about age appropriateness, this is probably a correct assumption.
The authors of An Inclusive Teenage Guide to Sex and Relationships refuse to state that a girl has a womb, and a boy has a penis. This refusal to correctly identify which genitals belong to which sex – as can be seen in the first passage quoted above – robs children of accurate vocabulary to describe their bodies, Furthermore, in the chapter about ‘Reproductive Health’ the word ‘mother’ is not mentioned once, and according to the book, it is “people” that become pregnant, not “women.”
Aside from ignoring educational guidelines, not naming bodies properly is a safeguarding hazard because, if children are abused, it is imperative that they are able to accurately describe, using shared language, what has happened to them. It is also imperative that children know that it is only females that can have children, and that no amount of gender identity changes or physical interventions can ever alter this fact.
Furthermore, the authors take no note of the 2020 DfE guidance on RSE curriculum which states that schools should “not reinforce harmful stereotypes, for instance by suggesting that children might be a different gender based on their personality and interests or the clothes they prefer to wear,” indeed, the book’s reference to trans people expressing their identity “in terms of masculinity and femininity” illustrates that this is precisely what the ‘expert’ authors believe.
These are precisely the kind of stereotypes that grandparents of current school-aged children rejected in David Bowie’s heyday, now being forced anew on all children in all schools. This is not inclusive, no matter how many rainbows are painted around it. Any child who is in any way gender non-conforming will feel excluded by this approach. Don’t forget that the authors anticipate this book will be read by children as young as ten, illustrating they position their ideological agenda above the best interests of children.
It is never appropriate for adults to discuss sex toys with children, but vibrators and butt plugs are mentioned several times, along with how they may be used (to reiterate: the authors think this book is suitable for ten and eleven-year-olds). Perhaps this is meant to exemplify the disruption of “the penile-vaginal coupling,” discussed by the SoSE in their academic paper.
A further example of this ‘disruption’ is the instruction about how to locate and stimulate the prostate gland. Girls are told that, despite not having a prostate gland, that they may also “enjoy anal sex.” However, it is a fact that anal sex is significantly riskier for women than for men. The Guardian and British Medical Journal state:
“Increased rates of faecal incontinence and anal sphincter injury have been reported in women who have anal intercourse…Women are at a higher risk of incontinence than men because of their different anatomy and the effects of hormones, pregnancy and childbirth on the pelvic floor…Women have less robust anal sphincters and lower anal canal pressures than men, and damage caused by anal penetration is therefore more consequential.”
It is reckless for supposed ‘experts’ to omit such important health implications.
Rather than protecting children and helping them draw effective boundaries, the SoSE is instead promoting risky sexual behaviour to children, and this is compounded by there being no mention that anal sex can be used by abusers to avoid pregnancy. The promotion of anal sex to girls as though it is danger-free makes it harder for them to say no.
A further worrying aspect of this book is its absurd assertion that ‘sex’ can be “anything that makes you feel horny” and “might include things like kissing, stroking or cuddling naked.” This is dangerous because rape is not an ‘unwanted cuddle’, it is ‘unwanted sex’. Definitions must be watertight and based on a shared societal meaning – telling children that a cuddle can mean ‘sex’ is reckless because there where is ambiguity there will be doubt – and doubt can be exploited and manipulated by predators. A rationale frequently offered for sex education is that it is supposed to protect children from abuse. Ambiguity, however, foils this rationale.
The authors discuss porn in a neutral way as an aid “to help [people] masturbate to have their imaginations aroused.” However, there is a plethora of evidence that it is harmful, aspects of which we have previously discussed. Echoing the approach taken on the ChildLine YouTube video that we petitioned the NSPCC to disable, the authors ignore the detriments caused by porn. They do not mention that algorithms work to gradually lead viewers to more extreme content, making children further addicted. Telling children that “there is nothing necessarily wrong with watching porn” is therefore disingenuous.
Other assertions include the spurious idea that there is such a thing as ‘ethical porn.’ Even if pornographic performers can be said to have consented, this does not negate the damage done to viewers – and vicariously – their sexual partners. Importantly, there is also no mention that it is illegal to show children pornography. An action which is explicitly illegal, because it is designed to protect children, can never be classed as ‘ethical.’
Despite its claim to be a teenage guide to sex education, the book contains illustrations that place the penis and vulva on a continuum, showing genitals as ‘variations’ rather than as distinctly sexed genitalia:
This image perpetuates the myth that is possible to be neither male nor female. This is untrue, exploitative, and deployed in order to confuse children about biology with the objective of pushing an ideological viewpoint.
There is much else besides contained in this book, such as an introduction to polyamory and an uncritical mention of surrogacy, further illustrating that, far from being written by ‘experts’, this book has been written by a team of activists with the aim of affecting the wholesale transformation of society from the youngest upwards. They are reliant on the majority of parents having neither the time nor the inclination to even realise, let alone complain, about their agenda. These ‘experts’ responsible for An Inclusive Teenage Guide to Sex and Relationships describe themselves as “unembarrassable”: if only this were not the case.