The problems with Nadine Dorries’s motion

// 4 May 2011

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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.

Comments From You

Clare // Posted 4 May 2011 at 5:11 pm

Drip, drip, drip. The policy has always been to slowly errode sex education and abortion access.

I’ve written to my MP so we’ll see what his reply is – I’ll not go into the details of why it’s a bad move here – preaching to the choir isn’t really necessary!!

aimee // Posted 4 May 2011 at 5:36 pm

Jesus Christ what does Nadine Dorries have against women and girls?! Why is she so desperate to erode all our rights?!

Jennifer Drew // Posted 4 May 2011 at 10:01 pm

Nadine Dorries believes that girls must be taught abstinence but boys need not be taught this. If that is the case where then are the boys going to get their ‘sexual experiences’ because females are apparently ‘off limits to males.’ Oh but I forget – whenever a female engages in ‘real hetero penetrative sex’ with a male she automatically becomes a s….t whereas he is hailed as a stud!

Nadine Dorries is a male supremacist supporter/apologist.

Back once again to male sexual double standards wherein women and girls are blamed and males are hailed for their sexual promiscuity (sic).

Or to put it more succinctly Dorries is promoting male sexual control and male sexual domination over females. Welcome to the resurgence of male supremacy which in fact has never been eliminated.

BareNakedLady // Posted 4 May 2011 at 11:16 pm

Gosh, I can’t see why so many people are only seeing the negatives on this.

Virtually any compulsory sex ed in schools = an improvement on what we have already (NO compulsory sex ed). Only if it were teaching that sex was evil would it be worse than nothing, and that’s not the case.

Only teaching to girls = bad.

Teaching that abstinence is a valid choice = good. Possibly already covered, but good.

An abstinence-only sex ed program would be bad, but that’s not what’s being proposed. The options here are:

either a girl would have received only the currently offered sex ed, and now she will get this abstinence addition as well, or:

a girl would have received no sex ed, and will now get some, albeit abstinence-only.

It’s widely anecdotally reported that girls feel pressure from boys to have sex. Girls also later report having lost their virginity before they were ready. Clearly they need more ammunition to prevent this from happening. So this addition is a good thing for that reason too.

A *better* thing would admittedly be if there were also separate compulsory abstinence advice for boys. As has been pointed out, they also experience sexual pressure, generally of a different kind. But Dorries’ motion still seems on balance like a good thing.

Not overwhelmingly, but by a narrow margin. Say 52%?

So why the witch hunt?

maggie // Posted 5 May 2011 at 12:46 am

The problems are:

Boys should learn to say no.

Boys should learn that they are fertile 24/7 and have ultimate responsibility for contraception.

Boys should respect.

Katharine // Posted 5 May 2011 at 9:36 am

Awful, awful woman. I am gobsmacked by just what a blatant double standard is embodied in the proposal. It’s insulting to men and perpetuates a culture that’s dangerous for women.

It’s particularly depressing to see such rubbish being proposed, because I do think there is a lot of unexplored scope for using sex and relationship education to counter the norms and attitudes that underpin sexual violence and rape. It would be great to see young people engaging more in classes with issues of consent, pressure to have sex, and so on; but it can’t be about ‘abstinence’ and it certainly can’t involve only one gender.

Cara // Posted 6 May 2011 at 6:16 pm

Dorries’ arguments are fundamentally dishonest. She talks about empowering girls and giving them the option to say no – comprehensive sex education, covering abstinence while also giving information on birth control and contraception – would do this. Abstinence-only education doesn’t empower girls, it shames them, gives them an overly simplistic message, “just say no”, and fails to give them the information they need to make healthy, responsible choices.

Pencils // Posted 6 May 2011 at 7:29 pm

Because, BareNakedLady, do you really think that girls and boys would be unaware that the girls are getting more sex ed? Abstinence-based sex ed? I understand what you’re saying, and it’s sort of valid, but the very fact that girls will be getting the abstinence sex ed and the boys wont is sending a message to them that girls are the sexual gatekeepers. And this is very, very wrong. Besides totally disappearing the existence of gay teens, it supports the patriarchal system of girl virgins=good, sexually active girls=sluts, while boys are supposed to have as much sex as they can. I graduated from high school a long, long time ago, and I really had hoped things would be advanced by now. Seems more like they’ve regressed.

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