The problems with Nadine Dorries’s motion

As reported by Jess earlier – Nadine Dorries today proposed a motion posing the introduction of abstinence based sex education for girls only.

Proposing a ten minute rule motion – Dorries wants to ensure girls are educated in the benefits of abstinence. She does not, seemingly, want to ensure boys are given similar such advice. What sort of message does this send out?

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The Education For Choice blog surmised the problems with this proposition.

It seems bizarre to call for more sex education for girls specifically. For all those women (quite a large majority) who sometimes, often or always have sex with men, it would be quite useful if the men knew a thing or two too about positively choosing whether or not to have sex.

Her bill does not include the word ‘relationship’ TUT TUT – is all about empowering young people to make informed decisions and one of the many they will be faced with is: do I have sex now, in this place, with this person, with/without this form of contraception? This kind of approach which eschews the obsession with virginity, purity, and a sense of once it’s gone it’s gone, is much more useful than typical abstinence education. Instead of proposing that sex in and of itself is wrong/terrifying/horrendously risky and should be avoided for as long as possible, it gives students a framework against which to consider whether each sexual opportunity should be embraced or avoided.

Abstinence is an exceptionally loaded term with connotations of religion, purity and morality: bypassing issues of consent, pregnancy, contraception and STIs. It is interesting that Dorries wishes to ensure this specific (and rather abstract) faction of sexual education is delivered by schools to girls – and yet is not motioning for wider discussion. What does she think this will achieve?

If promoting sexual abstinence is something she genuinely believes has its benefits – why is she not rolling it out to educating boys, also? Does she not believe boys are entitled to, or could benefit, from the same information? If not, why not? Why foist the full weight of responsibility for sexual abstinence onto the girls?

Liberal Conspiracy cited this policy review, arguing that sexual abstinence programmes can prove damaging to young people; “abstinence-only programs are not only ineffective but may cause harm by providing inadequate and inaccurate information and resulting in participants.”

By promoting an archaic abstinence programme – Dories railroads the discourse away from more relevant, pressing issues – introducing a canonical doctrine that reinforces the retrogressive notion that sex is something for boys, and not for girls.