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Experts Want High School Sex Ed to Educate Kids About Porn

They say if we want to stop sexual assaults at university, education needs to start as young as possible.

by Vincent Dwyer
23 August 2016, 6:57am

Experts say schools have a role in teaching kids about porn. Image via

Children should learn about pornography at the earliest age possible to prevent violent sexual behaviour later in university, says a Melbourne sex education expert. Professor Meredith Temple-Smith, director of research training at the University of Melbourne, says pornography has "definitely got a role to play" in the rising issues of campus-based violence.

Professor Temple-Smith believes high school students must be taught about the inaccuracies of sexual depiction in pornography, if we want to prevent cases of sexual abuse and assault from reoccurring after they graduate.

"If kids have got constant access to pornography, then they begin to normalise this and think this is part of acceptable behaviour," she says. "It's about what we teach kids when they're growing up."

On Tuesday, the University of Sydney Wom*n's Department sent a scathing open letter to the school's administration accusing the school of "deliberately" stalling action on sexual assault. The letter said the university had been aware of cases of sexual assault occurring on campus for years, but that such reports were never properly investigated.

The open letter makes several demands to the University of Sydney, including staff re-education, counselling services on campus, and consultation with sexual advocacy group Full Stop Foundation to provide mandatory "sex and ethics/bystander" training to students.

Professor Temple-Smith agrees with substance of the department's letter. She says such measures are necessary, as the current model of sex education in schools and universities is just not adequate.

"There's a lot of information around now that suggests what people learn at school is very much about the biological aspect of sex," she says. "It seems that a lot of these students were embarrassed about taking it seriously."

The open letter also demands the University of Sydney commissions an independent review by advocacy organisation End Rape on Campus into the current sexual assault reporting procedures in use.

Spokesperson for End Rape on Campus, Sharna Bremner, told VICE that sex education must be taught to students at the earliest age possible, and should not be delayed.

"If you're not teaching things like consent and ethical sex and respectful relationships [to high school students], then by the time you get to uni it's too late," Bremner says.

She agrees that education on pornography should become part of school curriculum, saying these sorts of discussions are sorely "missing" from classrooms Australia-wide.

"[These issues] are not going away," Bremner says. "We can either ignore the problem, or really start educating kids on respect and ethics."

Last year, the Victorian State Government announced its plan to introduce mandatory respectful relationships education into school curriculums. In a public statement Deputy Premier James Merlino said the program would teach students "from a very young age that the best relationships are respectful ones."

Since its introduction earlier this year, the state government has provided the program with extra funding of $21.8 million, though none of the curriculum goes as far as Bremner and Professor Temple-Smith would like. As yet, pornography education in sex ed is not on the cards.

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