Lolita or laudable?
When Britney Spears, the pop star, first hit the news there was a lot of controversy about the persona she adopted. Although a woman of full age herself, the video for her first single depicted her cavorting around a school in a school girl’s gym strip. The video was seized upon by those who were concerned about the sexualisation of children and the effect that it may have on the physical and mental well being of the very young and, also, how such scenes may encourage those who would abuse them. Now, we have the seemingly contradictory situation in which we have the most stringent laws to protect those who are under age but also we are treated to story lines on programmes as benign as Coronation Street and Neighbours about youngsters’ first sexual experiences. It is obvious that we have got something terribly wrong about the whole sexuality subject in our society having, as we do, the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe, run away sexual ill-health amongst the young and an alarming rate of abortion for girls under sixteen (rising by 10% in 2007 to 4,376). Into this mix comes the Government’s announcement that children as young as five will now begin to receive sex and relationship education-an announcement that bears directly on the assertion of 40% of teenagers that there sex education was ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ (www.statistics.gov.uk/children). From now on, Primary school children will learn about puberty and the facts of life from the age of seven and, from the age of five, will be taught about parts of the body, relationships and the effects of drugs on the body. Thereafter, as they progress thorugh school, they will learn about contraception and sexually transmitted disease. There will also be extra tuition for teachers who find all of this too embarrassing!
Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Are we encouraging little Lolitas or a laudable sense of responsibility and level of self-understanding? Many of my readers will remember such black and white films as: A Taste of Honey, in which innocent young girls are seduced and then left bare foot and pregnant in a society hostile to such breaches of decency and morality. Well, society has advanced since then and, partly as a result of changing morality, partly because we are more tolerant community, there is an acceptance of a myriad of life style choices and people can choose the type of relationship they wish to live their life in, largely free from societal comment. However, it seems to me that our self-understanding has not developed with a more liberal society, and ignorance about sexuality abounds. Can it really be acceptable in a modern society that magazines that routinely show sexualised pictures of women are easily available on the top shelf of any newsagents? Despite the 9pm watershed, there are often television programmes containing scenes of a highly explicit nature shortly after this time: and easily viewable by young people from the TVs in their bedrooms. And all of this would be ‘ok’ if the viewpoint on sexuality being given was a healthy and life-affirming one but, sadly, it all too often the life of a prostitute or of a serial philanderer that is being held up for scrutiny and tacit approval. The truth is that, almost forty years after the proliferation of the contraceptive pill; the sexual revolution and the beginnings of the movement for the rights of women, our society still has as unhealthy, if not more unhealthy, an attitude to all things sexual.
From all this, you may guess then that I am profoundly in favour of any educational development which enables the young from as early an age as is decent and right learning about themselves in such a way as the Government is now suggesting. A person’s sexuality is innately good and God-given, it is only ignorance that makes it something shameful and dirty. If, in properly preparing our children for this most natural and God-given human activities, we are able to prevent unwanted pregancies which ruin lives; eradicate the exploitation of women because they are no longer innocent in such matters; prevent the evil abuse of children and young people because they are able to speak out without shame; address the problem of sexually transmitted diseases, contracted and passed on so often out of ignorance, and, ultimately, create a society with a healthy, open attitude to relationships as sacred in which humanity achieves nobility and aspires to the highest fulfilment, then I believe the Government and the educational establishment will have done a good job. Ignorance, at whatever age, is never a good thing: knowledge and understanding are power.