‘Know = No’
"What's being taught isn't wrong, it's just not enough..."
Sexual Consent - know that no means no!

Nicola Whiten8799261Tutor: Abbey Diaz
Abstinence.png
(H, 2010)

The Cultural Artefact

This cartoon was acquired from an American online blog called ‘This Adventure Life’, where a concerned mother back in 2010, has included it in her blog to emphasize her opinion that ‘abstinence only’ education is ineffective. The artefact illustrates an elderly school teacher attempting to educate about abstinence, whilst his heterosexual and homosexual students are engaging in erotic activities behind his back. The use of the colour red in the clothing, including the airborne G-string and the students’ skin tone is accentuating the sexual behaviours of typical teenagers, demonstrating that sexual education lessons currently being taught are out-dated and futile.


Public Health Issue

In Australian school-based sexual health programs, an emphasis is being placed heavily on the physical and fact-based topics such as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV/AIDS, safe sex practices, reproduction and birth control methods Yes, these topics are essential to preventing some teenage pregnancies and the transition of infection, however it's just not enough. Social aspects, specifically sexual consent, psychological safety, individual sexuality and LGBTI issues are being brushed over or completely left out, depriving students of the skills required to manage risky and challenging situations and guarantee their personal safety in public environments. Standardised education of these topics is essential if we want adolescents to have the knowledge and confidence in their bodies and the strength in their choices to engage in sexual activity when the time is right, and have the maturity to cope with the permanently life-altering physical consequences that can arise from such encounters.

Literature Review

A short segment from the popular television series Family Guy, is evidence of what today’s youth are being subjected to.

Human beings can be easily conditioned by media and television, and with misleading and misinformed sexual health advocacy so abundant and accessible to adolescents in the 21st century, it is clearly evident that the attitudes of school-aged individuals are contributing to the proliferation of rape culture. With young individuals being exposed to messages in our media declaring rape as a common term in our everyday vocabulary and teaching them that sex is all fun and games, it is essential that there is education available that enables these individuals to develop the skills needed to deal with challenging situations and understand what is physically and psychologically safe and acceptable.
There is limited scholarly literature available relating to school-based sexuality health education (SHE) in Australia. However, multiple studies have been conducted in various countries, collecting information to acquire an understanding of what learning outcomes students, young individuals, parents and their communities wish to gain through school-based SHE.

A book written by Duncan (1999) explains that when trying to connect with adolescents to influence their behaviour, it is of absolute importance to understand their social selves (Duncan, 1999). It continues to analyse a study that was conducted in England, regarding sexual bullying in twelve and fifteen year olds. It was evident from this research that many young individuals were subjected to an atmosphere of sexual bullying, being called derogatory names such ‘gay’, ‘slaggers’, ‘two-timers’, ‘users’ and ‘sconners’ (Duncan, 1999).
Being repeatedly exposed to this insulting environment reinforces the concept presented in the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality. That is, that personal safety, sexual coercion, sexual assault and sexual decision-making in relationships is deemed either very or extremely important to students, when asked what topics should be provided in school SHE (Anonymous, 2009). When regarding fact-based or physical SHE (for example, condom use or STI information), this same piece of literature details that there are multiple peer-reviewed studies presenting rigorous evidence that well-designed adolescent SHE programs can have a significant positive impact on sexual health behaviours (Anonymous, 2009). However, it is also supported that in order for SHE to be most effective, it needs to be informational, motivational and have focus on a behavioural aspect (Anonymous, 2009). Therefore, this author has recommended that it is integral for SHE to address motivational factors that influence individual sexual health behaviours, including peer pressure, the benefits of delaying intercourse, and the specific skills required to protect and enhance sexual health (Anonymous, 2009).

Nevertheless, it is still evident that most research available in current literature identifies that a need for change in the current school-based SHE is due to rising STI rates (Henry, 2011). For example, a study published in Sexual Health, indicated that an examination of the current SHE in Australian schools is only needed due to high notifications rates of STIs and teenage pregnancies (Macbeth, Weerakoon, & Sitharthan, 2009).

This study also presented the fact that in 1999, Australia did develop a national framework entitled ‘Talking Sexual Health: National Framework for Education about STIs, HIV/AIDS, and Blood-Borne Viruses’, that was to be introduced as a required part of Australian SHE (Macbeth, Weerakoon, & Sitharthan, 2009; Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health & Society at La Trobe University, 1999). Yet there were no reported targets or benefits of the framework concerned with decreasing rates of sexual coercion and sexual assault or increasing decision making skills for students in challenging sexual situations. This national framework only focussed on areas such as reducing STIs, delaying intercourse and increasing contraception to ultimately decrease pregnancy (Macbeth, Weerakoon, & Sitharthan, 2009).

Supporting the notion that what is being taught isn't wrong, it’s just not enough, is a paper written in Sex Education, that identified a study conducted in the United Kingdom, where students acknowledged that in their SHE, they wanted more information on resisting sexual pressure, sexual feelings, sexual relationships, gender differences and sexual behaviour (Byers, Sears, & Foster, 2013). With students in Canada and the UK indicating that the school-based SHE they had received “did not include the information they most wanted to know and suggested that a wide range of topics be added” (Byers, Sears, & Foster, 2013, p. 216), this paper indicates that this is not just an Australian issue, but a national public health concern.

Statistics from the Australian Institute of Criminology show that approximately 1.2% of the Australian population in 2011 between the ages on zero to twenty-four, were sexually assaulted (AIC, 2012). This information relating directly to school-aged individuals is solid evidence of why it is of great importantance to introduce the education of sexual consent, psychological safety and individual sexuality into Australian SHE programs. However, to implement such practices will be particularly difficult, as the review of Australian school-based SHE in Sex Education identifies the fact that Australia does not have a standardised national SHE curriculum, but many, including SHARE (sexual health and relationship education) in South Australia, Family Planning in Queensland and Victoria, and GDHR (growing and developing healthy relationships) in Western Australia (Smith, Fotinatos, Duffy, & Burke, 2013).

The national youth survey ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’ indicated that the existing clinical, scientific and anatomical approach to current SHE programs does not meet the needs of Australian school students (Australian Youth Affairs Coalition & Youth Empowerment Against HIV/AIDS, 2012). This is most likely because sexuality, as outlined in the 2013 book, Sexual Health, is “a core human dimension that includes sex, gender, sexual identity and orientation, eroticism, attachment and reproduction, and is experienced or expressed in thought, fantasies, desired, beliefs, attitudes, values, practices, roles and relationships" (Wellings, Mitchell & Collumbien, 2012, p. 3). This book continued to detail that sexuality is an intricate combination of biological, psychological, socio-economic, cultural, ethical and religious/spiritual factors (Wellings, Mitchell & Collumbien, 2012). Therefore, as it is termed ‘sexuality health education', it is paramount that it accommodates all aspects of sexuality, not just the biological fact-based topics, to sufficiently prepare adolescents for a healthy and safe adult sexual life. Because obviously what we're teaching now, is just not enough... Failing Sex Ed.png




Cultural and Social Analysis

This population health issue needs to be addressed and understood, as individual sexuality includes not just biological aspects, but psychological, socio-economic, cultural, ethical and religious factors. Fundamental attitudes and values that could potentially lead to the proliferation of rape culture are being developed by school-aged individuals, as they are being detrimentally influenced by the media, fellow peers, parents, their religion, culture and society. For example, the Family Guy video displayed above, supported the concept that sexual violence, including rape, is not about sex, but is a matter of power and control (Talbot, Neill, & Rankin, 2010). With the youth of today being subjected to these attitudes that clearly support gender stereotypes and violence against women (MacMahon, 2007), we must have the necessary SHE in schools that can prepare these young individuals to identify the differences between normal and abnormal sexual attitudes and behaviours (Talbot, Neill, & Rankin, 2010). The inability to recognise what is socially and physically normal and acceptable behaviour can support the continued existence of rape myths (Talbot, Neill, & Rankin, 2010).
Social feministic theories indicate that developing a belief in common rape myths affects females more so than males. This is due to the fact that these myths can include beliefs that the way a woman dresses or presents herself indicates that she wanted it (MacMahon, 2007), or that if a woman says no in a groaning or passionate way, her rejection was not valid and can be taken as sexual encouragement (Kahan, 2010). Yet rape myths also influence males, undesirably leading to an increased prevalence of rape culture. For example, common rape myths detail that rape occurs because men cannot control their sexual impulses (MacMahon, 2007). Developing false attitudes and beliefs about rape are becoming increasingly held in contemporary society and have begun to assist in the denial and justification of male sexual aggression against women (MacMahon, 2007; Talbot, Neill, & Rankin, 2010).
Today’s general society is one supportive of rape culture (MacMahon, 2007). But it is difficult to discourage this philosophy due to the fact that advertising of sport, fashion and practically all other facets of our culture have become sexualised to some degree. Public health experts need to focus on increasing the youth’s awareness of this issue, as research has shown that having a belief in rape myths increases factors related to sexual violence and aids to silence victims (Talbot, Neill, & Rankin, 2010). In other terms, accepting rape myths as a norm can indicate problematic attitudes and actually bring rise to sexual violence perpetrators (MacMahon, 2007).
Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that school-based sexual health programs supply adequate education regarding sexual consent and coercion, and methods to ensure psychological safety, that teaches students what is socially acceptable and behaviourally normal. To do so, an emphasis must be made on highlighting what prejudicial, stereotypical, and false beliefs about rape, rape victims, and rapists are currently evident in the students’ cultures and societies, to better equip them with the skills needed to identify what is right and what is wrong. We need young individuals to know that no means no.
Just as a little example (and yes they are slightly sarcastic, but...), maybe this is how we need to educate young individuals of how rape culture is wrong, how blaming the perpetrators, not the victims is right and that no actually means no... photo (3)1.jpgrape culture 32.jpg



Artefact Analysis and Learning Reflection

The artefact I chose isn’t just representing that an ‘abstinence only’ approach to SHE is futile. It embodies the ideology that today’s adolescents are increasingly deciding to indulge in sexual and erotic activities and teaching them only about the biology behind “the birds and the bees,” just isn't enough in this sexualised day and age. I can tell you, as a teenager myself, that sex can be a terrifying topic of conversation in some circumstances, and sometimes you can believe the questions you really want to ask, are just too personal/private/weird/strange/extravagant/unusual/gross/absurd/idiotic or any adjective you can think of. I personally believe that the majority of teenagers think that they will be judged or laughed at if they ask these questions.
At such a crucial developmental stage in our lives, we need to have information available in school-based SHE relevant to every young individual’s sexual interests. I was shocked when I discovered in my research how high the number was of young individuals in Australia that had been victimised by sexual assault. The sex education I received never prepared me with the knowledge needed to deal with such an event, if it was to ever occur (which I really hope never does!).
After delving into the depths of papers, studies and research about SHE, it has been made clear to me that sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted teenage pregnancies are the only triggers generating any need for deliberation on changing the current SHE models in Australian schools. My through process on the other hand, recognises that there is a positive correlation between the high prevalence rape culture and the high rates of unwanted sex and sexual assault, and if we could teach this in schools, maybe we could eradicate rape culture once and for all.
This assessment piece has unveiled a part of me that will persist to ensure that when I have children, they will be properly educated about sex. Hopefully by then, schools with have included consent and psychological safety into their SHE programs. However, if this is not the case, I now understand the importance of volunteering my time as a future parent to answer the awkward “what goes where’s” and “why do I feel this way’s” and the “could that really happen to me’s”, as I know this will properly prepare my future children for this wonderful thing called adult life!


References

Anonymous. (2009). Sexual health education in the schools: Questions & answers (3rd edition). The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 18(1-2), 47. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/ps/i.do?action=interpret&id=GALE%7CA205857972&v=2.1&u=qut&it=r&p=HRCA&sw=w&authCount=1

Australian Institute of Criminology (2012). Australian crime : facts and figures 2012. Retrieved from http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/current%20series/facts/1-20/2012/2_profiles.html

Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health & Society at La Trobe University (1999). Talking Sexual Health. Retrieved from http://www.latrobe.edu.au/arcshs/downloads/arcshs-research-publications/TSHframework.pdf

Australian Youth Affairs Coalition & Youth Empowerment Against HIV/AIDS (2012). Let’s talk about sex. Retrieved from http://www.redaware.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Lets-TalkAboutSex_AYACYEAH_FinalReport.pdf

Byers, E. S., Sears, H. A., & Foster, L. R. (2013). Factors associated with middle school students' perceptions of the quality of school-based sexual health education. Sex Education, 13(2), 214. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/doi/pdf/10.1080/14681811.2012.727083

Duncan, N. (1999). Sexual bullying: Gender conflict and pupil culture in secondary schools. London: Routledge.

Henry, O. (2011). Relationships and sex education in regional Tasmania. Australian Nursing Journal, 19(6), 35. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/docview/917467298

Kahan, D. M. (2010). Culture, cognition, and consent: Who perceives what, and why, in acquaintance-rape cases. University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 158(3), 729. Retrieved from http://qut.summon.serialssolutions.com/2.0.0/link/0/eLvHCXMwVV3NCsIwDC6i4HmgfYqOuHRtcxaHIHhS1OPWNt4E0ffHdCroKeSUQMLHl5CfsgYcfWHBEMhCT4xllgEx-ZzbhocQ_5ptP2jeVWqSbwt17DaH9dZ8ngGYq1AANCGBG4izzZSAEibhNc6yeOCbNhJbH6GMQLSuZ4zJBRu4HBoRBtlAzytcqqkU1FmrGUtgRQrYajGs1fxMp2O47PZvtfqq9WNcfKrvTy3YPuaFwRpeBiQ2CA

Macbeth, A., Weerakoon, P., & Sitharthan, G. (2009). Pilot study of Australian school-based sexual health education: Parents' views. Sexual Health, 6(4), 328. Retrieved from http://www.publish.csiro.au.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/view/journals/dsp_journal_fulltext.cfm?nid=164&f=SH09040

McMahon, S. (2007). Understanding community-specific rape myths: Exploring student athlete culture. Affilia, 22(4), 357-370. doi:10.1177/0886109907306331

Smith, A., Fotinatos, N., Duffy, B., & Burke, J. (2013). The provision of sexual health education in Australia: Primary school teachers' perspectives in rural Victoria. Sex Education, 13(3), 247. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/doi/abs/10.1080/14681811.2012.715580#.UnIs2nBHKSo

Talbot, K. K., Neill, K. S., & Rankin, L. L. (2010). Rape‐accepting attitudes of university undergraduate students. Journal of Forensic Nursing, 6(4), 170-179. doi:10.1111/j.1939-3938.2010.01085.x

Wellings, K., Mitchell, K., & Collumbien, M. (2012). Sexual health: A public health perspective. Maidenhead: Open University Press


Reflection

1. What an Eye Opener! http://healthcultureandsociety2013.wikispaces.com/share/view/64694426

2. Great Topic for This Day & Age http://healthcultureandsociety2013.wikispaces.com/share/view/64694558