Ok, so in my last post I mentioned that Rugby MP Mark Pawsey voted in favour of Nadine Dorries’ move to introduce ‘abstinence’ sex education aimed solely at girls. As well as my post, I wrote him an email directly. Here it is:
Sunday 22 May 2011 Dear Mark Pawsey, I was disappointed to see from Hansard that you voted in favour of the Private Members' Bill introduced by Nadine Dorries MP to change sex education. During the debate, she made various statements that have been found to be false. For example, she claimed to be citing Joan Bakewell when producing statistics on prime-time television. However, the statistics come from a US study from about 10 years ago. The US definition of prime-time is later than the UK one, and includes post-watershed programming. So the statistics were irrelevant to a UK debate. She also made misleading statements about what was taught to young children in schools under the current system. 7 year olds are not shown how to put a condom on a cucumber/banana - contraception is not part of the curriculum at anything like that young an age. Several of the incorrect statements made have been addressed here: http://www.ministryoftruth.me.uk/2011/05/10/dorries-abstinence-speech-the-fact-check/ The principle of changing the message to concentrate on girls abstaining while not dealing with boys seems to be utterly short-sighted. It will not address the issue of peer-pressure from boys, and has the danger of increasing the propensity to blame girls alone for under age sex. Additionally, while it seems at a superficial level a good idea to encourage abstinence, it has unintended consequences. An over-reliance on abstinence may mean that young people are ill equipped to use contraception. This may lead to more underage pregnancies, STDs and other problems. In the light of this, do you still support the proposed Bill, and can you explain your reasoning? I would also like to ask if you are in agreement with the comments that Nadine Dorries made recently suggesting that her Bill would reduce sexual abuse. This seems to be dangerously close to suggesting that young female victims of sexual abuse are to blame. Please note, this correspondence and the reply will be shared. Yours sincerely, Owen Richards
A reply came by post, and here is what it said:
Thank you for contacting me about Nadine Dorries' proposed changes to sex education. I am pleased that Nadine has raised this particular issue, as it is one which is very important to the overall debate about educating pupils about sex. All maintained secondary schools are required to provide sex education as part of the national curriculum. Additionally, schools are encouraged to provide a broader programme of sex and relationships education (SRE) as part of non-statutory personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education. This provides opportunities for all young people to develop the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to resist pressure to have sex and support them to delay sexual activity. An ongoing issue has been the quality of the sex education that pupils receive. I am pleased, therefore, that the Department for Education has announced an internal review of PSHE education to look at how schools can be supported to improve the quality of PSHE teaching, including SRE. It is encouraging that the Government wants to see a change in emphasis in the delivery of SRE, with a stronger focus on relationships. I understand that this does mean the inclusion of issues such as: sexual consent; respect; building young people's capacity to say "no" to things that don't feel right; and recognising the negative and positive portrayals of sex and relationships that they are exposed to in the media Thank you again for taking the time to contact me. Yours sincerely, Mark Pawsey MP
So, did he answer my questions?
Nope. Not directly at least.
He did not address the distortions in Nadine Dorries’ speeches and other comments in support of her proposals. He did not address the fact that her Bill is specifically aimed giving one message to one gender and has no regard to the other. He didn’t address the shameful linking of sexual abuse of children to her idea, which by implication seems to be saying that if only girls said “no” they wouldn’t be victims of sexual predators.
He didn’t even say whether he still supports the Private Members’ Bill.
What I am not concerned about is that Mark Pawsey seems to think that Sex and Relationships education (SRE) doesn’t already include the issues of consent, respect, the capacity to say “no” and media portrayals. Perhaps he has bought the narrative being sold by Dorries and the media that it’s all about playing with condoms and empowering people to express their own sexuality.
In reality, sexual education at schools today already contains all of those, as well as the important issues such as what sex is, how to detect and protect against STDs, the reality of pregnancy, etc etc.
All of those things are important. An over-reliance on promoting abstinence can (as has been observed in the USA) lead to more problems of under-age pregnancy and STDs. I would rather that our MP was considering the issue based on evidence than, as it seems, based on the views of moral crusaders who distort the truth.
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