COVER STORY Safe Schools: Sorry, chef, but the entire sex-ed menu's off!
by Terri M. Kelleher
News Weekly, May 7, 2016
We are told the Safe Schools Coalition Australia (SSCA) program is to prevent bullying of GLBT students. It was certainly sold as an anti-bullying program.
Staff from the Australian Research Centre into Sex Health and Society (ARCSHS) at La Trobe University in Melbourne, which produced the Safe Schools program, identified the safety theme (that is, “Safe” Schools) as an effective marketing strategy: “The marketing of this research was consciously directed towards creating and supporting processes of social change. … The safety paradigm endowed the cause with respectability; anyone could get behind such a banner without fear of suspicion and criticism.”
But Roz Ward, one of the main architects of Safe Schools in Victoria, has publically admitted that the program is not about bullying, it’s about gender and sexual diversity.
SSCA is based on queer gender theory, that your gender is not defined by your biological sex but is how you feel: “Sexuality is fluid, and changes over time; sometimes liking guys more, sometimes liking girls more.” (OMG my friend’s queer, p9); “The idea that you’ve gotta act in a certain way just because of what bits you have between your legs is pretty outdated.” (OMG my friend’s queer, p9).
SSCA has been exposed by Queensland Nationals MP George Christensen as recommending to students organisations and websites with pornographic content and which promote the use of sex toys and oral and anal sex, and offer advice on chest binding and penis tucking for transgender students.
What has all this to do with preventing bullying?
And now we have a further offering in the sex-education stakes based on preventing “gender-based” or “domestic violence”. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced $21.8 million for a new program, “Building Respectful Relationships” (BRRs), which includes activities such as writing sexualised personal advertisements and answering questions such as: “Who has responsibility for making decisions about sex and romance in your relationship?”
BRRs was written by Dr Debbie Ollis from Deakin University. Ollis was also principal writer of “Talking Sexual Health”, a project managed by Anne Mitchell, with the special assistance of Lyn Hillier, both from the ARCSHS at La Trobe University.
“Talking Sexual Health”, for students as young as 13, covers sex toys, a very wide variety of sex acts and an activity where students imagine they are gay or transgender and in a relationship.
Another sex-education offering to come out of the ARCSHS is the “Practical Guide to Love, Sex and Relationships” (PGLSRs).
Its Freedom Fighters video urges “non-binary” students to fight back:
“They may take our penises, they may take our vaginas, but they will never take our freedom!
“You don’t have to be a certain way just because you have a penis. You don’t have to be a certain way just because you have a vagina.
“We’re not gonna care about that. We’re gonna do what we wanna do. We’re gonna be who we wanna be.”
For Years 7/8 (ages 11-13), topic four asks: “What to do when you think you like someone?” and reflects on what a respectful and ethical romance “looks” like.
A “respectful and ethical romance”? for 11, 12 or 13 year olds? It does say: “many students are not ready for romantic relationships and we do not want them to feel they have to suddenly ‘create’ friendships or romance”. But spending 50 minutes of class time talking about it would be pretty big pressure for students to feel that they are missing out on something very important if they don’t have a romantic relationship.
And Years 7/8 are asked the highly intrusive question: “How do people learn what they enjoy sexually?”
There is also a lesson on pornography. So the Practical Guide to Love, Sex and Relationships could be the first introduction to pornography for an 11 or 12-year-old student, regardless of whether that child would have gone on to view pornography.
These programs are in addition to the sex-education programs already in schools. The Victorian primary sex-education curriculum, “Catching on Early”, was developed by, you guessed it, the ARCSHS at la Trobe University. Children of six and seven years of age are taught the words for body parts such as vulva, clitoris and scrotum and shown diagrams of them.
All these programs should be seen within the context of the push for comprehensive sex education.
There is a place for good, healthy and respectful sex education that is delivered to children in full consultation with parents and that recognises that sexual activity is not just a pleasurable activity to be indulged in whenever one feels aroused or “in the mood”. And that it comes with serious responsibilities and that early sexual activity has very negative consequences.
But none of the above offerings fits the bill.