Published on November 22, 2013 | by Juliet Atto


Let’s talk about sex

Juliet Atto

ALN sub-editor, Juliet Atto [Emanuele Giovagnoli]

During the wee hours of the night/morning, I was inspired to write about sex. The age of consent to be exact, because David Cameron recently shot down the possibility of having the age of consent lowered from 16 to 15.

The president of the Faculty of Public Health, Professor John Ashton, had suggested that the age of consent should be lowered due to the fact that teenagers are actually starting to have sex earlier these days.

He argued that in doing so, it would be easier for them to get help, and to develop a healthy attitude towards sex. Sounds fair enough, right? Well, apparently not.

But before I even continue with this piece, I need to disclose some important information: I’m Swedish. Don’t let my name and face fool you, I was raised in the land of the blondes, IKEA, meatballs and electronic pop music. But most importantly, I grew up in one of – if not the most – liberal and secular countries in the world.

Just as much as Americans grow up with images of guns and violence, us Swedes grow up with ding dongs and fannies thrust into our faces – not literally of course – before we even learn how to spell ‘vagina.’

However, with the internet, kids from all over the world are now surrounded by these images. But it’s not just explicit sexual imagery that we are bombarded with in Sweden, we are also raised to believe that sex is something completely natural and that it’s nothing wrong with feeling a certain way when you reach a certain age. That age tends to be a lot younger than 16.

Maybe it’s just my liberal Swedish mind working in overdrive. Perhaps I’m scarred for life from listening to too much explicit rap music and R. Kelly, but I don’t see anything wrong with a little bump and grind – just as long as it’s done right. I’m not talking about the act of sex itself, because, hey, different strokes for different folks.

I’m talking about the aspect of sex we seem to refuse to talk about – contraception. Yeah, that’s right, I said it.

As university students, how many times have we not heard the whole ‘oh, I forgot/was too drunk’ from our mates, or my personal favourite ‘he/she looks clean,’ because of course, we’re all slapped with a stamp on our faces before a night out saying: ‘here comes chlamydia’ or ‘get ready for the clap’.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging. I don’t blame us, the young, for our generally poor views on sexual health – I blame society. Duh.

In countries like Sweden, where the age of consent is 15 and sexual education has been mandatory since 1955 (2010 in the UK) STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) are at an all-time low and only four per cent of first-time mothers in Sweden in 2009 were under the age of 18. While in 2010 the UK experienced the highest teen pregnancy rates in western Europe.

Whether you agree with lowering the age of consent or not, you must admit that your first sexual thought probably came a little bit earlier than your sweet 16. Instead of chastising teenagers for reacting to their hormones and, you know, biology, we should let them know that it’s okay so they can have a support system and thus make wiser decisions regarding sex.

Those against lowering the age of consent, like the British Prime Minister, argue that if we lower it to 15, what will stop us from bringing the age any lower?

There is of course a point to be made in that argument; we want kids to remain kids for as long as possible and not be burdened with the responsibilities of ‘adult behaviour’ such as sex.

But let’s face it, they’re already engaging in said behaviour and they’re doing so without knowing a damn thing. So instead of fighting the inevitable, we should face it head on and get with the times.

As the old saying goes, “if you know better, you do better”. So shouldn’t we teach these kids about safe sex before they become sexually active, so when they’re ready to ‘get it on,’ they’ll know the importance of ‘putting it on’?

How many more seasons of ’16 and Pregnant’ and ‘Teen Mom’ do we have to endure before we realise that, geez, maybe we’re doing something wrong here?

Although it’s pretty much too late for us, because we’re that in-between generation that remembers a world without the internet but are young enough to get screwed by it (no pun intended). So there’s no hope for us. But I’m talking about the kids, our future, there is still hope for them. Right?

Of course lowering the age of consent won’t automatically solve the problem, but I think it serves as a start for a more open and honest debate concerning teenagers and sexual health. The problem isn’t young people ‘doing it’ – because they already are – the problem is that they are doing so without the proper means, support and information.

So let’s teach our young ones that there’s nothing wrong with doing it or wanting to do it, just do it right.


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