As the British debate around how to talk to children about sex intensifies, teachers and students explain how it’s done across the globe

Adults have long been squeamish over talking to children about sex. We have a history of complicated and conflicting attitudes: sex has been seen as simultaneously joyous and desirable (so long as it is between a young couple after marriage and in the interest of begetting babies), but also as dark and dirty, something from which children must be protected.

Religion and paternalism, rooted in a historic cult of virginity at marriage and the ownership of women, continue to influence the debate over sex and relationship education (SRE) around the globe. Even in countries such as the UK, many adults do not feel comfortable with the idea that children can have sexual feelings, particularly if they are LGBT feelings. The parents who object to the government plans for sex education in primary schools talk of the need to “protect childhood innocence”, as if sex is something corrupting or wrong.

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