teachers

Victim blaming in sex education has to stop

WRITTEN BY SEXPLAIN YOUTH CONSULTANT VICKY M.

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When I was 14 years old (sitting in one of the PSHE lessons), I was presented with a sexting, sex education video. I’m sure along with my peers, that we all took it at face-value as this was the video chosen to help educate us on the dangers of sexting. Interestingly, re-watching this video two years on, it is easy to spot the flaws which exist in it.


The video on the right, is the recommended video to watch, to educate pupils on the issues with sexting. This means that it shall be shown to schools all around the UK. Although, it most definitely highlights the dangers of sexting, it fails to provide an empathetic understanding of the situation and where the blame truly lies. Writing this as someone who is at the age where these issues are very relevant, I feel that there is something missing from a lot of the educational videos.

By no means is this the only video at fault, but as it is the recommended one, it shall be the focus for demonstrating the problem.

The woman in the video, claims ‘I wasn’t starting something public’ and ‘it’s not my fault’ which to me, speaks the truth, but she is shut down with the fact she shouldn’t have sent them in the first place and you can’t put the blame on everyone else’. What about those people watching, who have sent sexts before? It would make them feel like they have done something wrong, which is really the opposite of how it should be; the person who shared them or pressured the person to send them is the one at fault. These people would have also already sent the sexts, so telling them they shouldn’t have sent them in first place is useless and just causes more avoidable problems.

So what problems can this victim-blaming perspective really create?

Well, firstly, imagine you, yourself have sent a sexual photo of yourself to somebody else and it has escaped, and gone public- available for everybody to see. Not only that, but the blame isn’t on the person who ‘leaked’ or ‘shared’ your photo but the accusation is placed on you, for sending it in the first place! Remember, that consensual sexting takes place regularly, and can be a healthy action for many relationships. Non-consensual sexting, is the problem. The fault lies with the SHARER of the photo not the SENDER. Another way non-consensual sexting can take place, is under peer-pressure or even threats. This makes it even more despicable to place the blame on the person who sent the pictures- rather, than the individual who was giving the threats or peer-pressure.

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Unfortunately, there are a lack of appealing videos for teenagers to watch about sex education. But I need to stress how important they are for having healthy relationships and that there are many more things that can be done to make them more appealing. The lack of diversity within sex education is also worrying as there needs to be more attention given to non-heterosexual relationships. Women also tend to be the prime focus for the victims, but we need to show more role-reversal in them, as these situations can happen to men, and other gender identities as well. By creating more diversity, it will create a much more inclusive environment for everybody when being taught sex education.

Tips for Teachers

If you are a teacher interested in teaching sex education, here are the main things I would recommend to be most effective when teaching teenagers;

  • Go in open-minded, trying not to exclude as many minority groups, or less focused on groups as possible

  • Be empathetic with the differing situations being taught, everybody will have different experiences/opinions of them

  • Make sure to engage with the audience, don’t just talk ‘at’ them and show them videos, talk ‘with’ them, having discussions and conversations- keep it interesting

  • A key thing is, is for it to feel relevant and relatable, for example, having people like you being shown in the videos (hence, the need for more diversity)