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Let’s Talk About Sex – For Teens

Yvonne Ardley, Staff

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“I’m going to make your life that much of a living hell you’re going to want to kill yourself.” These were the words texted to 16-year-old Emily* by her boyfriend of three months when she tried to break up with him.

Emily’s boyfriend, who had also taken a photo up her skirt without her consent, also threatened to spread the picture around their Perth public school.

Emily’s traumatic situation is sadly, all too common, according to two Perth women working to help teenagers avoid such predicaments.

Phillipa Henderson and Amanda Lambros started Positively You in 2016; a business offering workshops to 14-17 year olds aimed at female empowerment, including an in depth look at sex and relationships. They want sex education in Australia to be more holistic and to tackle issues such as consent, respect and healthy relationships.

Amanda, a forensic sexologist, and Phillipa, who worked in the wine industry for many years, started running independent workshops as well as travelling to schools to teach children about mental health, consent and body image.

Ms Henderson said there was much more to be done to better equip young women for sex and the challenges of being a female.

In Australia, sex education taught in public schools generally addresses only the purely biological elements of sex as well as the safe use of contraception.

“According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1 in 4 girls before the age of 19 will have distorted body image, experience bullying and have an unwanted sexual experience.”

Ms Henderson believed that speaking about sex has become more socially acceptable now and as a result, women are more empowered in reporting sexual assault. However, Ms Henderson said society still had a long way to go.

According to the Australian bureau of statistics 17% of women and 4% of men over the age of 15 reported being sexually assaulted. 93% of offenders were male.

Only one in six women will report rape and roughly 17% of reported sexual offences actually results in a conviction.

Ms Henderson said a study conducted at Harvard University could reflect attitudes and cultural values men have towards women and sex.

“A piece of information that the Harvard study found out, was that at University, the males, if they ask a girl home to their place, they 100% believe they are going to get sex.”

Ms Henderson said this included in the day time with no alcohol present and including if it was offered as an occasion to do a non-sexual activity like watch a movie.

“No matter how they present it, they believe sex is 100% guaranteed.”

“Whereas with females, only 40% believed there was a high probability of sex, but no obligation or guarantee.”

Nadine Gabriels, 18, who recently graduated from a Perth public school, said the sex-ed she received could have been better.

“A lot of it was about just contraceptive methods and how to have safe sex. Healthy relationships were never really talked about.”

Ms Gabriels said tje majority of her female friends had experienced at least some form of unwanted sexual experience, like pressure to perform sex acts or had been inappropriately touched at social gatherings.

Ms Gabriels also said her sex-ed never included things like homosexual sex or female pleasure.

“I definitely felt prepared to have safe sex from my education, but in relation to things like female orgasm, none of that was taught,” she said.

“I definitely think the relationship side of it all doesn’t get talked about. We don’t learn about things like consent and often situations can go very badly.”

Ms Henderson said that often young women would be afraid to talk to their teachers about sensitive topics like sex.

“Often young women will only talk about their ‘secret’ problems with other girls of their age, who aren’t really qualified to give advice,” she said.

“We sometimes go to the wrong resources for help, and a very well-meaning young person won’t have the appropriate response, and could actually compound the challenge.

Miss Henderson believed better information and resources were needed in schools, as well as encouraging open conversations about sex and relationships.

“This is all about breaking down the stigma.”


(*Name has been changed)

Shannon Stent
Photo Credit: Shannon Stent

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Let’s Talk About Sex – For Teens