Sex education videos many parents consider unduly sexually explicit, but intended for viewing in schools by children as young as seven, are at the center of a raging controversy in Britain.
Daily Mail reports that one of the videos, entitled All About Us: Living and Growing, designed for an audience of eight-year-olds, features scenes that many think could have come from an adult pornographic movie.
According to the producers Channel 4, All About Us: Living and Growing was made in "response to requests from teachers and heads for a resource that promotes sex and relationship education as a developmental process, beginning in the early years at an appropriate level and progressing through childhood and adolescence."
But the age appropriateness of this film is being questioned by many parents, and some are planning to pull their children from the SRE classes or remove them altogether from schools planning to show it to pupils.
Dail Mail describes a scene from the Channel 4 DVD production, targeted at children as young as eight, and which will soon be showing in primary schools:
"The camera pans to the bedroom. Soon, a computer-generated image of a naked man and woman appear on my screen.They begin to chase each other around the room; she tickles him flirtatiously with a feather; he responds by hitting her with a pillow.They start to kiss and caress. The next moment they leap onto the sheets and begin having sex in a variety of different sexual positions.
"The voiceover informs us: ‘The man’s penis slips inside the woman’s vagina. It’s very exciting for both of them.'"
The video provides information about masturbation, orgasm (according to Daily Mail, there is an animated sequence showing ejaculation), causal sex and "good and bad touching."
"Living and Growing" is not the only SRE film causing concern among parents. A CD Rom from BBC Active is planned to be shown to 11-year-olds in primary schools. Yet it comes with a red label warning: "Sexually explicit. Review before use."
According to Daily Mail , a clip from the film shows:
"...full-frontal nudity...a real couple in the bedroom and bathroom. There are also computer-generated images of penetration."
Part of the SRE package, that has been recommended for primary schools by several councils, is a card game where children match words to definitions listed in the glossary. Among the words and phrases are:
"'oral sex’ (using the mouth and tongue to lick, kiss or suck a partner’s genitals) and ‘anal intercourse’ (sexual intercourse where a man puts his penis into another man’s anus)
"Subjects recommended for classroom discussion in the package include: 'Homosexuality, bisexuality, abortion, rape, incest, sex abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and Aids.'"
Some British parents have been asking why a film with label warning "Sexually explicit" should be shown to 11-year-olds? And how would showing videos with sexually explicit content to young children, some of who still believe babies come from Santa Claus, could possibly help solve problems of teenage sexuality, STDs and pregnancy?
One of the best known parents in Britain protesting the SRE films is Lisa Bullivant, 39, who withdrew her seven year old daughter from East Wold Primary, because of the Channel 4 DVD which is fast gaining notoriety in Britain. According to Bullivant:
"The original letter from the school led me to believe that it (the DVD) was just about puberty. The title was not given so we couldn’t even look it up online. I couldn’t make the viewing parents were invited to, but I didn’t think I had any reason to be concerned. The first I knew about its content was when I heard my daughter and her friend discussing it on the way home in the car. It caused such a stir. There were reports of some boys copying what they saw and jumping on girls after school. I discovered that only two out of 30 parents had turned up to the viewing and they had been shocked by what they had seen. The teacher presenting it said they could withdraw their children from the lesson but she would 'strongly advise against it' as they’d hear about it from other pupils anyway, which would be worse."
Sex Relationship Education (SRE) is already compulsory in all British secondary schools, and the drive to make it compulsory in primary schools did not win enough support and had to be abandoned. However, a strong drive from the sex education lobby has seen more than a fifth of UK primary schools, about 3,400 schools, and nearly one million school children, in the SRE program.
The Department of Education guidelines , however, require that any primary school planning to introduce SRE must first consult parents for their input. According to the guidelines:
"It is essential that schools involve parents in developing and reviewing their sex education policy. Schools should ensure that pupils are protected from teaching materials that are inappropriate having regard to the age and the religious and cultural background of the pupils concerned.Governors and headteachers should discuss with parents and take on board concerns raised, both on materials which are offered to schools and on sensitive material to be used in the classroom."
But parents are complaining that schools are not consulting with them before choosing from the variety of SRE packages available and that many of the schools deliberately conceal the content of the SRE courses from parents. Some parents say they are under pressure from schools to accept their programs or remove their children from SRE lessons.
The sex education lobby, Daily Mail reports, defends its policy of extending such quality of sex education to primary school children by arguing that we live in a highly sexualized society and that exposing children too late to the "facts of life" will not help them adjust to pressures in the sexualized societies in which they will grow up. But many are asking, are we not running the risk of "too much, too soon?"
Examiner.com, while defending use of the SRE films, agrees seven may be a little too early, but says that in spite of sensational reports of parents' anger at the films they are good educational resources.
"...but then again when do you start talking about the birds and the bees when 12 year-olds are getting pregnant and the odds of a teenager catching a sexually transmitted infection are on the rise?"
Examiner.com appraises "Living and Growing":
"[it is] aimed at helping young people develop positive attitudes and behavior and 'skills for effective communication, loving, caring and happy relationships.' And although Ms. Lisa Bullivant (the protesting parent) and subsequent headlines have been referring to the DVD's depiction of 'graphic sex,' I found the DVD's animation to be subtle, tasteful, and age appropriate." Examiner.com recommends the films because they address:
"...some of the basic birds and the bees material, touching on sex and gender differences, gently answering the timeless youngster's 'How did i get here?' questions about how babies are made and born, then moving into 'Girl Talk' and 'Boy Talk' segments and providing a 'Let's talk about sex' framework for appropriate vocabulary and discussion about sex, sexuality, and pregnancy."