Sitting down to watch the first episode of the new SBS drama 'The Hunting', I was looking forward to seeing how issues such as sexting, revenge porn, and sexuality were going to be portrayed. Whilst some of the adult characters and storylines have been embellished for entertainment purposes, what I loved about the episode was how they captured the emotions and behaviour of the adolescents. The struggles that they each deal with were highly accurate and certainly were familiar with what I’ve been hearing around the College since I began teaching at Trinity in 2017.
Whilst originally employed as an English teacher, the school very quickly embraced my other qualifications as a Sexologist. I have a degree in Sexology which has taken me from working with people with disabilities, running women’s empowerment workshops, sex and relationship counselling at a private practice, and now to sexuality education at Trinity College. Since 2017 I have delivered large scale presentations as well as small classroom workshops to Years 8, 9 and 10. The topics that I cover with the students include healthy relationships, toxic masculinity, gender and sex, pornography, social media, consent and respect. This is done in a very respectful manner, is age-appropriate and most considerate of our Catholic Teachings.
This term, my focus is on the Year 8 group where I will speak to them about sexting, pornography and sexuality.
Just about every student owns a smartphone and uses social media these days. Even though they have had discussions about the dangers of online behaviour, adolescent boys and girls are still sending nude or semi-nude photos of themselves and sending sexually explicit messages. My focus for this presentation was that whilst it seems harmless and fun at the time, the legal, social, and emotional consequences can be catastrophic. I was incredibly pleased with the responses from the boys on this topic as they were already aware of the connection between sending sexual messages and child pornography. What they weren’t confident with was the exact laws and legal ages concerned with sending nudes. They were all surprised to learn that despite Australian law stating that it is legal for a 16-year-old to have sexual intercourse, if someone is under the age of 18 and is found to have naked photos of themselves or others in their possession, it is illegal and they can be charged with a criminal offence. The boys had so many questions and ‘what if’ scenarios which demonstrated to me that they were engaged and interested in what we were discussing.
The second session the boys will participate in will focus on pornography. When talking to adolescents about sex and relationships, I am very careful never to bring shame or guilt into the equation. Instead, I provide them with real-life consequences that can result from excessive pornography use. The messages in this session include:
- Pornography is a neutral term on its own, but today has connotations of violence, aggression and abuse.
- It is a construction of reality and everything it portrays is an embellished representation e.g. Body parts, sex, power, intimacy, and pleasure.
- Excessive porn use can lead to erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and emotional detachment from real quality relationships.
- When children are exposed to pornography it can cause distorted views of sex and relationships. Child on child sexual abuse has risen dramatically since porn has become so easily accessible.
This is the final presentation for the Year 8 group. I believe it is important to have open discussions with adolescents about sex and sexuality regardless of religion, socio-economics or gender. There are so many buzz words circulating in regard to sexuality that students are using them flippantly without knowing what they mean. I aim to define common terms and encourage the boys to ask any questions they may have. It is better for them to learn from a professional than using Google or what they hear from friends. I use the Edmund Rice Education Australia document on Safe and Inclusive Learning Communities to structure this session as it demonstrates the importance of being non-discriminatory towards people with diverse sexualities and gender.
Giving students at Trinity the opportunity to learn and talk about sensitive topics makes them feel valued and prepared for real-life situations. If children and teenagers are asking the questions, they deserve to know the answers and what better way to provide them with these answers than in a safe and comfortable environment.
The world of sexuality is forever changing, primarily due to technology, and I look forward to keeping up with these changes to provide our boys with the best possible education.
Recommended websites for further information:
- Protective Behaviours Victoria – Australia
- Sex Ed for Parents and Carers CBR
- World Association for Sexual Health
Mrs Annika Holland