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“The challenge of talking about sex with young people”

Updated: May 13, 2020

On 30th January, 2020, IndieJunior Allianz – Porto organized a debate in the Rectorate of Porto University with the contribution of professionals (school teachers, psychologists, artists) and guests. The aim was to reach answers that contribute to a better relationship with sex education, between parents and children, school and students. The film that inspired this debate was Preliminaries, by Anne van Campenhout; a fun and uncomplicated documentary about how sex education is taught in a school in The Netherlands.

The film addresses issues such as consent, pornography, the desire versus the need to have sex and the difference between sex and sexuality. The media projects an idea that we should have an active sex life, in some way or another. Young people can feel abnormal if the y do not have this very active sexual life that is presented to them. This hyper-sexualised portrayal of what consists of a normal ‘sex life’ can lead young people to feel embarrassed and ashamed and not want to talk about their own, real sex life; especially for the youth who sometimes have difficulty recognizing certain situations.

It is important to take the time to learn about sex properly, not through the social media lens. It should not be seen as something that is ‘obligatory’, rather a pleasurable act. Sex after all is a subjective perception, and the youth often gain an understanding of what sex is before they even have it. We also tend to forget the fact that sex education is taught in our homes through our family ties and other personal relationships. Nowadays, parents talk more about sex than in the past, yet young people still feel uncomfortable when evoking such issues in the family sphere. Young people are left in a difficult position, they have many doubts but feel too embarrassed to address them with their parents. The issue can be controversial, and for a correct approach, it is necessary to start from a foundation of trust, which can be built upon over time.

Diversity is increasingly present in schools, which has been promoted in turn by the compulsory academic curriculum that schools must follow. This has opened up the conversation for several issues when talking about sex, referring to the fact that it can pave the way for a "century of respect", where differences are accepted. In this regard, reference was made to the proposal of “parental pin”[1] that the Spanish extreme right-wing party Vox has proposed in the neighboring country; this as a step backwards from the acceptance of diversity and differences that should never be taken for granted, especially when they are on the other side of the border.

The need for a democratic and pluralistic approach was also stressed when addressing these issues, in which the youth know they have the power to choose; at the same time that we build concepts such as love and empathy in a healthy way, without indoctrination or prohibitive techniques whatsoever. Bringing these issues to schools normalizes them and opens up the debate.

Finally, the relationship between art and film was established as a cultural object that allows us to provide an interdisciplinary approach. That provides innovative means to perceive different relationships such as those involved in the debate. The way in which our relationship with the world is marked by art was emphasized, as it can define our behavior with our surroundings. Preliminaries, showcased this relationship between art and reality and discussed issues of sexuality. Eventually, art allows us to simultaneously move away and into the cultural environment, forming concepts and ideas that define our daily lives.

By Farileandro Londoño


[1] This proposal consists, in a few words, in a written request that is addressed to the directors of the educational centers in which the parents request that they inform them previously, through an express authorization, on any subject, talk, workshop or activity that affects issues about gender identity, feminism or LGTBI diversity, so that parents can give their consent for their child to attend or not.

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