Saying ‘No’ to Sexual Abstinence?
Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) Department of Psychology, Sociology and Politics, SHU Public Health Hub (PHH) and the Centre for HIV & Sexual Health
5 November 2012 10am-6pm, The Workstation, Paternoster Row, Sheffield S1
Introducing abstinence education into UK schools could be a less effective substitute for comprehensive sex and relationship education aimed at children and young adults, say a research team led by Sheffield Hallam University.
As part of the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) Festival of Social Science 2012, Sheffield Hallam University and partners will host a one day event on 5 November to debate the issues surrounding abstinence education.
Dr Julia Hirst, from Sheffield Hallam University, said: “We hope to bring together politicians, teachers, youth workers, young people and their parents to discuss the re-emergence in our society of views promoting abstinence education in schools and youth settings; as opposed to offering more comprehensive Sex and Relationship Education.”
Steve Slack, The Director of the Centre for Sexual Health and HIV in Sheffield said ‘Existing evidence fails to support the view that teaching abstinence from sexual activity is the only certain way to avoid unintended pregnancy, STIs and HIV. Extensive research undertaken in the US points to negative outcomes associated with abstinence education including increased risks of unprotected sex and a more reluctance to seek advice or treatment related to sexual health and relationship matters.”
Dr Julia Hirst points out, ‘There is clear evidence that access to comprehensive Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) can have positive effects in terms of increasing the age of a first sexual encounter, widening understanding of safer sexual practices and equipping young people with the skills and confidence to protect their sexual and emotional health as well as reducing the risk of unprotected sex, unwanted or coercive sex, unwanted pregnancies, and STI’s. Comprehensive SRE also includes strategies for young people who want support in abstaining from sexual activity.”
Steve Slack, Director of Sheffield’s Centre for Sexual Health said: “Our discussions with young people consistently suggest that while there are pockets of good practice in terms of SRE (put in full) in the UK, sex education overall is too little and too late and often fails to address young people’s expressed needs for comprehensive sex education,” says Steve Slack.
He continued: “Comprehensive sex education, would include a greater focus on the issue of relationships, as well as sexuality, more discussion of safer, non-penetrative sexual activity and debate regarding values and up-bringing in shaping attitudes to sex.
Dr Hirst continues, ‘If we look to countries with the lowest rates of unwanted pregnancy and STIs, least relationship abuse and more attention to relationships, for example, The Netherlands or Sweden, these are the countries which have age-appropriate SRE embedded in their curriculum and it is supported by youth friendly sexual health services and well-informed parents. This is what we would like to see for young people in this country.”
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, CONTACT
Dr Julia Hirst, Email: email@example.com
Steve Slack, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
ESRC Press Office: Jeanine Woolley,
Telephone 01793 413119
Tel: 0114 225 2621