What can you remember from your sex education at school? Do you remember anything specific? Can you remember any details? I have a vague recollection of being in a science lesson and the teacher trying to control a bunch of giggling girls, whilst talking about willies, lady bits and a baby in a tummy but this is about it. What I don’t recall however is really being taught periods, ovulation and fertility. Fast forward to now and I’m in a situation where I’ve had to become far more aware of what happens inside my body each month because my fertility is an issue. And this is something I’m only fully aware of in my (late) thirties. But what if this had been something I’d been aware of, from my teenage years onwards? Okay who knows what situation I’d be in now, but what if young girls were taught about fertility, alongside sex education from a young age, would that be a bad thing?
I went to an all girls school and amazingly, beyond the basic ‘here’s how a baby is made’ (snigger) there was nothing taught about knowing the signs and signals our bodies were giving us during our monthly cycles. I knew I got my period every few weeks, that the pads were horrible-enormous, and that it was something to be used to get out of swimming lessons, ‘Perrrrrriod again Emmmaaa!’ my Dutch swim teach would holler into the changing rooms. But this was about all. In my Biology lessons, there was no actual delving into periods, how ALL girls get them and how normal they are (something which the #weallbleed campaign is trying to do now) And there was no talk about how along with periods came fertility, and along with fertility comes the ability to bear a child. I think these are all things young girls really should be aware of. They should be taught all the facts about their bodies, that fertility isn’t guaranteed for all, and certainly for some fertility has a sell by date. This shouldn’t be something to be hidden, or isn’t something that would panic into having sex I don’t believe. By giving young girls ALL the facts, then I think that would help them become more self aware.
I listened to an episode of Woman’s Hour last year (this post has been a long time coming) which covered teaching fertility to young girls in schools. One in London has opted to teach their pupils about fertility, alongside sex education. Head Teacher Catherine May wants her girls to have as much information as possible so that they can make informed choices and decisions later in life. She doesn’t believe that by talking to their pupils about these topics, that they are encouraging or scaring girls in to having babies at a young age. Catherine believes that it’s about giving girls all the facts, so that they can make informed choices as individuals when they are ready, whether they decide they want a baby or not. I think this is a fantastic attitude to have and one I wish had been in place when I was growing up. (I did contact the school to find out more about their curriculum but sadly they never got back to me) I can’t help thinking that there is so much pressure on young girls nowadays, that maybe if they had that confidence of knowing their own bodies and exactly what was going on inside them, then they might feel more self-assured. Given that most boys watch porn online and have vastly swayed views of what a female body should look like, we should be giving young girls as much power as possible, knowledge is power and I believe that young girls need this power.
When I was growing up, my family and I weren’t that open with each other, whereas now that has changed as we’ve all grown older (and wiser) Looking back I can see how I may have benefited from being more body aware and in tune from a young age. I can’t quite believe that it’s only really now that I track my monthly cycle and understand the other signs my body gives me, and these are all SO IMPORTANT! Okay maybe not when you’re thirteen or fourteen but at least if you knew what was going on downstairs and you know what it means, then things might not be so scary or you might be more free to talk about things. Because of my mistakes, I see where things went wrong and I will do my best to be honest and open with my daughter, and ensure that she is fully clued up about sex and her own fertility and body, so she can make informed choices when she is ready and hopefully not be so scared by the whole process. It would be great however if schools were teaching girls about their fertility as well, to back us up.