Need for better sex and relationship education

Need for better sex and relationship education

Back in 2012 I wrote this post about Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) which nicely forecasts my work with Justin Hancock on Enjoy Sex and, as well as the DO Project of free RSE resources which Justin works on with Durex.

An interesting article in The Telegraph today calls for better PSHE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic) education to cover sex and relationships.

Research presented at the Institute of Education Sexualisation of Culture conference – which I co-organised – by Maree Crabbe and David Corlett found that young people turn to pornography for sex education because schools don’t cover the positive aspects of sex and intimacy.

Like Alan McKee, whose work I have discussed here before, Crabbe and Corlett conclude that what is needed is better PSHE on aspects of sex and relationships which recognise that young people will be viewing pornography, rather than the abstinence models that have recently been suggested. They are also in favour of teaching critical thinking so that young people can better evaluate the representations that they see of sex in porn, given that they are likely to be accessing it.

Personally, I’d like to see sex and relationship education that covers the following:

  • The diversity of sexual identities and practices, rather than putting one forward as the norm (including teaching critical readings of the kinds of sex which are most available in mainstream media and porn).
  • How to tune in to your own desires and lack of desires.
  • How to communicate these and the importance of consent.

Meg-John (MJ) Barker (they/them) is a writer, zine-maker, collaborator, contemplative practitioner, and friend. They are the author of a number of zines and popular books on sex, gender, and relationships, including graphic guides to Queer, Gender, and Sexuality (with Jules Scheele), and How To Understand Your Gender, Sexuality and Relationships (with Alex Iantaffi).



  1. Jen Hazel

    4 January

    Fortunately, curricula exists that meet all of those requirements and more. (I work from two of them).

    Unfortunately, I can’t see schools being very welcoming of such inclusive curricula. The biggest issue isn’t availability, it’s that schools actively block access for students. And it’s really hard to access those students outside of schools.

    • megbarkerpsych

      4 January

      Thanks so much for this Jen. If you have any links on positive sex and relationship education let me know and I’ll put them up here somewhere.

  2. Karl James

    4 January

    “Desires and lack of desires.” Yes indeed. Expressing them. Listening to them. Understanding them. Respecting and responding to them. And co-creating shared wants and needs. Appreciating and nurturing intimacy. It seems to me it’s about having the confidence, courage and skills to have the conversation… Thanks for the thoughts Meg. Important stuff.