An excellent interview has been posted here on The Guardian today with Jarrett Chamberlin, an inspiring teenager from Bristol who volunteers with SHARP (Sexual Health Action: Real People) to answer younger teens’ questions about sex that they can’t or won’t discuss at school or home. It’s wonderful to hear about this project as one issue that we are very concerned about here at Young Sexualities is the quality, politics, and availability of sex education guidance for both teachers and students (a key research topic in our work with the Welsh Assembly Government’s Cross Party Group on Sexualisation).
I found of particular interest the fact that SHARP are welcoming parents to their marquee as well:
For the first time this month we’ve got a space in the city centre where we’re putting up a huge marquee where people can come and ask us questions. This time, we’re aiming to reach parents too – we want to de-stigmatise those awkward conversations parents and children have about sex.
It is unclear from The Guardian article or the flyer advertising the event (above – full size version here) whether children and teens are being invited to bring their parents along, or if parents would be welcomed unaccompanied. Either way, this invitation to parents highlights the perceived increasing distance between parent-child knowledges and experiences of sexuality, and the discomfort felt by adults in addressing this issue. This discomfort is surely not helped by the media (and, unfortunately, the government) sensationalising the sexualisation debates and using ‘lost innocence’ as a motivation for action. When we use this ‘innocence’ discourse we paint children and teens who hold (or want to hold) sexual knowledges as beyond innocence, as lost or corrupt and, therefore, to be feared.
To learn more about this topic I recommend the Gender and Education special issue on sexualisation, as well as a book I reviewed for it, The Importance of Being Innocent by Joanne Faulkner, which explores the adult obsession with childhood innocence.
In the meantime, we wish SHARP every success with their event and future activities.