Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Anne Atkins: Sex education in schools isn't working

So sex education works, does it? According to Polly Toynbee, it does. The proof of this is that more teenage girls are having abortions. And - this is the stunning bit - this is "good news". I promise you. Verbatim.

Heaven help us. Where do you start, if the indicator for success is more teenage abortions? Forget the shock to the body that any operation is; forget the distress sometimes caused even to adult women by such a difficult decision. Call me old-fashioned, but I thought the rallying cry for abortion was a woman's right to choose, not a girl's obligation to make the choice we approve of.

All right, let's start further back. Imagine a brave new world in which no underage teenagers ever got STDs or got pregnant. Success! All targets met, all objectives realised, sex education has worked. (In truth, the last 20 years or so of sex education hasn't had this effect at all: as sex education has increased, so have the pregnancies and infections. But let's imagine, for a moment, this so-called education "working" perfectly. After all, this is the Utopia most politicians and many journalists seem to want: a world in which teenagers suffer none of the unwanted physical effects of sex.)

Now ask a parent whether this is success. Your 13-year-old is bonking away like a rabbit, Mrs Smith, but don't worry: she's not pregnant. She's had more one-night stands than a hamburger chain, but she hasn't got chlamydia. Is this really all we care about? Tell me: what do you think of a doctor who treats you as if you were nothing but a body, with no emotions, no fear, no hope, no dignity? Isn't this one of the most chilling aspects of prostitution, that a woman is reduced to using her body as a thing, as if there were no implications for her self-worth?

And yet isn't this exactly what we're doing to the country's teenagers? Read more

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