Novel Approach to Sex Ed


Sexual Education is a divisive issue which is brought into focus each year as children face a new curriculum, but a university student has set out her own approach to the problem by turning her master’s project into a social commentary on sexuality.

Drawing on her own experiences growing up, Kathryn Bird created a book which she hopes addresses the issue of broaching sexuality with children, and aims to break the taboo around the subject without being too adult orientated.

Titled ‘Girls are Pink, Boys are Blue?’ the book tells the story of a girl growing up feeling different to her peers. After initially attempting to fit in, things improve for the character when she accepts and embraces her individuality, says the University of Sunderland student.

“The issue of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people is taboo when it comes to talking about children and introducing it to them. I want to try and create a resource that could explain without being taboo and without it being too adult. It is something children need to know about, as they are the future of the LGBT community.

“Whenever you talk about gay people everybody instantly thinks about sexual things and it’s really not about that, that’s what I tried to bring into my book. I have a girlfriend and even when I talk about it with my family, who are accepting of me, it still feels a bit awkward. I just wanted to shed light on it.

“I want people to understand what LGBT people go through. It’s not something that is explained to young children; it’s difficult to learn about it. Everything that’s out there seems to be targeting teens or older children – as you get into being a young adult.

“Children get bombarded with heterosexual lifestyle, as opposed to alternative options. There’s not that many resources in schools at the moment, and not many primary schools teach anything about it.”

Kathryn created the story as part of her Illustration and Design Master’s degree at the University of Sunderland. The 22-year-old wants to continue with the project in the future and hopes to get it published.

While many parents call for the protection of children’s innocence and feel that educating them on sexuality at such an early stage is unnecessary, it is undeniable that the proliferation of the internet has only served to expand the number of avenues for young people to gain information, and more importantly misinformation.

David Laws, the Liberal Democrats Schools Minister, recently stated that secondary and primary schools should be required by law to provide sex and relationship education, and that children from the age of seven should be offered lessons.

In September a coalition of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI), sexual health and HIV campaigners published an open letter to party leaders, MPs and the government, to urge the implementation of mandatory, age-appropriate, sexual relationship education.

Kathryn’s work was displayed as part of the University of Sunderland’s MA Degree Design Show, which showcases exceptionally talented students in the fields of animation, calligraphy, illustration and graphic communication.

Source: University of Sunderland

  • Jim Harris

    Strangely enough, I think television is playing a big role in this kind of sex education. Have you seen Transparent, or Hit and Miss, or even Shameless? By having characters we like but who are different we learn to accept how they are difference. In Hit and Miss, and Shameless, they have children characters learning about LGBTI issues, and I think that’s educational too. Of course these shows are not for children to watch, but they are educational to the adult audience.

    • I think television programming can definitely be educational. Of course, to appeal to young people it must be done in such a way as to be entertaining (veiled educational content). I think this has always been the case. Given the propensity for digital media today, perhaps this is the absolute best way to educate the young. I prefer the approach covered in the post but then, I’ve always been a fan of educational literature of any kind more so than other kinds of educational material. Good point regarding adult audiences – it seems that many adults need this type of education as well based on what I’ve read online and off.

      • Jim Harris

        If I was running things I’d start with Pre-K and go through high school, and require a regular class in ethics, so at each stage of development we’d be teaching kids how to treat other people at the level they can understand. I think a lot of issues in our society have ethical aspects, including sex education. A good deal of ethics is learning to respect the other person, and see that everyone has rights, and everyone has goals they want to pursue. The problem with conservatives is they believe everyone should think like they do. You can’t empathize with other people if you’re only thinking about how to get them to behave and think like you do. Adjusting to diversity means expanding ethical rights to others.

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