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Sex-ed failing to teach girls how to say -

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PETER CAVE: After a week of public outrage over the latest NRL sex scandal, a paediatrician has
criticised sex education classes for failing to give teenage girls the skills to say "No".

Dr Rachel Skinner interviewed a group of girls aged 14 to 19 about their first sexual experience.

She says that sex education classes were too pre-occupied with sexually transmitted diseases or
unwanted pregnancies and neglected to discuss negotiation skills.

Jennifer Macey spoke to Dr Skinner.

RACHEL SKINNER: There was a significant proportion who regretted the experience and that tended to
be the younger ones, who were not ready for the experience...

JENNIFER MACEY: And are they getting younger?

RACHEL SKINNER: Yeah, they are getting younger and that was one of the reasons why we wished to
conduct this research, because we're concerned about the decreasing age of first sexual experience,
the increasing number of partners that young people have, and the risk that's associated with that
to their emotional and to their physical wellbeing.

So we found that those teenagers who had sex for the first time at a younger age were often not
ready for it and reflected back with regret.

So, many teenagers described being in a peer group where they perceived that all of their friends
had been sexually active and that they needed to do it to fit in, to have something to talk about.

JENNIFER MACEY: So what are they being taught in sex education classes? Are they being taught
anything about the ability to say "No"?

RACHEL SKINNER: There are certainly some sexual education programs that do incorporate the teaching
of skills, negotiation skills in relationships, and the resisting of peer pressure. But it's
certainly not the case for all sex education programs.

And you know, schools don't often allocate enough time, nor do they necessarily take the best
programs. And I mean it was clear that these young people knew about the risks of unprotected sex;
that was not the issue.

The issue's more about the pressures within their peer group, the pressures from their partner,
their male partner. There's a big pressure for those teenagers who want to keep their partner, that
they may have to have sex to do that.

And also in the context of going to parties and being drunk or getting high, their, any sort of
personal control that they may have over the situation is you know, significantly reduced.

JENNIFER MACEY: So, in the sex education classes, they're still being taught more about sexual
transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies, rather than...

RACHEL SKINNER: How to negotiate with a partner about having sex at the time that they feel ready
for it, and also just understanding that becoming sexually active is not necessarily all that it's
cracked up to be.

There's a lot of hype that teenagers describe; there's a lot of hype around sex that they get from,
you know, all sources. And many of those that reflected back with regret said, you know, "It wasn't
such a great experience, it was a real disappointment. It wasn't what I thought it was going to
be".

JENNIFER MACEY: The recent NRL sex scandal has again highlighted the issue of consent and power
imbalances. Is this a topic that's being tackled adequately in your mind by sex education classes?

RACHEL SKINNER: It's clear that there are parallels. I mean, this is a much younger group - we're
talking about teenagers from the age of 14 up to 19, so some of the older ones are similar age.

But it's obvious that, you know, many of the teenagers - girls - were not able to make their own
decision. They weren't actively making, following what they wanted to do. They were being
influenced from outside and they regretted their decisions afterwards.

So we really need to work out what we can do to help improve the assertiveness and self-efficacy of
young people so that they can continue the situation - of young girls in particular. Many of the
teenagers said how sex education was something that was too little and too late in their, you know,
in their schooling years.

PETER CAVE: Dr Rachel Skinner from Sydney University speaking to our reporter Jennifer Macey.