Gay and Lesbian Humanist

Spring 2002

Teenage Sex: What Should Schools Teach Children?, edited by Ellie Lee and Tiffany Jenkins

reviewed by Andy Armitage

Of special interest to queers in this volume is the Battle of the Peters – Tatchell and Hitchens.

Public debate is the object of the Institute of Ideas, and so far titles in their Debating Matters series, as well as this one, have included Science: Can We Trust the Experts? and Designer Babies: Where Should We Draw the Line?.

Here, seven experts in their fields contribute to a lively written debate. The title of Tatchell’s essay is “The ABC of Sexual Health and Happiness”, while Hitchens, a right-wing journalist who doesn’t much like the idea of any sexual freedoms, entitles his contribution “The Failure of Sex Education”.

Tatchell maintains that young people are sexually illiterate when they leave school, knowing the biology of it but having little idea about sex and relationships. He argues that there should be a moral framework within sex education, otherwise teachers might teach all sorts of dangerous behaviour. But moral doesn’t mean moralistic.

Sex is to be enjoyed, celebrated, cherished; it’s not dirty and we should not be made to feel guilt or shame. Sexual rights are human rights, he asserts: “The right to love a person of either sex, to engage in any mutually consensual sexual act, and to enjoy a happy, healthy sex life is a fundamental human right. This right to sexual self-determination should be promoted in every school ...”

Hitchens, as you would expect, makes a case for the strong family, and bemoans the death of innocence – a demise he blames for the high incidence of teenage pregnancies, abortions, one-parent families, divorce and rape. Quite how he thinks wide-eyed innocence will help is hard to see. Sure, we can impose a strict moral code on our children, but we risk blinding them to the realities they will one day have to face.

Tatchell wins hands down in this debate.

URI of this page :
Created : Sunday, 2002-09-01 / Last updated : Wednesday, 2007-12-12
Brett Humphreys :