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Students, sex ed, and safety

Sex education is something many university students may think they’ve graduated from: the secondary national RSE (relationships and sex education) curriculum, however ineffective, has been taught and now is time to put theory into practice. However, the importance of a thorough and ongoing sex education should not be overlooked. Conversations surrounding anatomy, sexuality, gender, children and consent are ever evolving and each of us always have something to learn.  

UEA attempts to cover this gap in sex education as soon as freshers enter campus, through the online Consent Matters course which aims to teach “boundaries, respect and positive intervention”. This is a brilliant way to remind students, in a period of partying, that consent is vital- though in reality it is easily bypassed and consists of obvious multiple-choice questions. Students are unlikely to purposefully, meaningfully engage in this type of task, which is reflected in the frequency of spikings and bystanders at the LCR and Waterfront venues. On this note, there are ‘Call it out! Bystander’ workshops on campus throughout this month for students to engage in.  

This lack of engagement in such additional courses creates an added importance on the way sex and related issues are discussed in compulsory learning, including seminars. Female genital mutilation, period poverty, heteronormativity and sexual assault are certainly topics that have appeared in my PPL and LDC seminars and undoubtedly have a place on a variety of courses. These conversations are usually respectful and collaborative, working to create a constructive and well-rounded view of the topic. It is in these spaces where I believe students will do the most learning regarding sex education and the university should do more to encourage it.  

The safety and wellbeing of students at university is paramount to enjoying the experience and receiving the best education possible. RSE fulfills this need, and can help answer many questions students have regarding long-term relationships and children- not just sex. A recent poll revealed that 20% of British students “meet the loves of their life on campus”, but what next? Are we making an informed choice surrounding marriage?  

Though as a generation we are not afraid of breaking convention, our university community deserves the love we give to one another to be reflected back in the most positive way possible- an incredibly personal decision: just as most RSE issues are, including contraception and childcare. One size does not fit all, therefore more inclusive conversations on campus can help us be better to our fellow students and to ourselves.  

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Libby Hargreaves

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June 2022
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The University of East Anglia’s official student newspaper. Concrete is in print and online.

If you would like to get in touch, email the Editor on L.Hargreaves@uea.ac.uk. Follow us at @ConcreteUEA.