Mark Pawsey replies – but doesn’t respond

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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