Is it normal to have sex fantasies about dolphins Bel Mooney delves into the disturbing Q&As on an NHS website for children
00:32 GMT, 27 October 2012
No doubt they are well-meaning people: liberal, well-educated, proud to be open-minded. The men and women who have created Respect Yourself – a new sex education website for teenagers – certainly have a mission to explain.
Nothing, not even the grossest sexual practice, is beyond the pale, even though the site is designed for teenagers as young as 13 and will certainly be viewed by children much younger.
Funded by the NHS (to the tune of 24,000) and the European Union (32,000), these educators have no problem in getting down and dirty in order to tell it like it is.
NHS funded: Nothing is beyond the pale for the Respect Yourself website, even though it is aimed at children as young as 13
Choosing slang whenever possible, they
even seem to snigger over some of the words they use — all under the
guise of talking to young people in language they can understand.
The overall philosophy behind this
tacky exercise is as cheap as it is cheerful: when it comes to having
sex you can do pretty well what you like, and no one should judge.
Having taken the time to read through all the material on Respect
Yourself, I was left feeling pretty depressed.
Of course, we all know that sex
becomes very important in adolescence, and is also a source of great
angst. ‘What’s going on with my body How will I know what to do Am I
attractive How do I say no’
These are just some of the questions
that teenagers have asked themselves (and their friends) for
generations. While there is nothing new in being interested, worried,
and excited by sexuality, now there’s a crucial difference.
Once, sensible sex education in school
meant learning about where babies come from, and putting an end to the
sad ignorance which left some young couples wondering how to face their
Nowadays, though, sex is peddled as
the number one recreation. Never mind the old cycle of falling in love,
getting married and having babies: in this brave new world, you try new
sexual positions with as much enthusiasm as you follow fashion and
The new website tries to reassure us
that it is ‘by no means encouraging young people to have sex’. Yet I
believe the overall tone of the advice does just that.
It’s ironic that a website which
proclaims ‘respect’ in its name should, in fact, show precious little
respect to the intelligence of the young people who may use it.
If you carefully work through the
whole site, you’re left with a sense of outrage that the adults who have
written this material feel they have to patronise the young with the
language of the bike shed.
And they do this, for example, when
dispensing advice on how best to engage in sodomy.
'Outrage': The site shows precious little respect to the intelligence of the young people who may use it
They defend themselves in a note to
parents: ‘All of the content on this site has been requested directly by
young people. The Frequently Asked Questions are real questions from
real young people, as are the words in the ‘Sextionary’ [a dictionary of
sometimes jaw-dropping sexual terms and practices], and therefore we
believe they are valid aspects of the site.’
It’s the way the kids talk,
so that’s all right then.
Among the terms helpfully defined in
the Sextionary – and which your average 13-year-old is apparently just
longing to understand – is andromimetophilia: ‘A fetish when guys like
to have sex with girls dressed as boys.’
'There is such a thing as 'normal' sex, and it's irresponsible to suggest otherwise to impressionable teenagers'
And (forgive me, but I need to give
you a flavour of this website) bagpiping: ‘The act of having sex with a
partner’s armpit.’ It is grotesque stuff. In fact, just about the only
thing that isn’t thrown into the mix is any real sense of morality, or
the possibility of personal restraint.
For example, ‘promiscuous’ is defined
as ‘a word we use for someone who sleeps around, having many different
partners. It is often used in a negative, judgmental way. However,
having sex does not make you a good or bad person.’
So the Respect Yourself team throw up
their collective hands in horror at the thought of being ‘judgmental’
about sexual behaviour which can lead to appalling unhappiness, not to
mention sexually transmitted diseases.
'Toxic nonsense': The website is aimed at children as young as 13 (file photo)
The answers to Frequently Asked
Questions are equally disturbing. For a start, the experts sound pretty
indifferent to the age of consent, answering the question ‘Why do I have
to be 16 to have sex’ with a cursory, almost reluctant nod at the law
of the land, followed by: ‘However, you are the only one who knows when
you are ready. Some are ready before, some not til [sic] much later.’
Here’s another example: How do you tell the difference between a normal woman and a prostitute
‘A prostitute is someone (either male
or female) who exchanges sex for money or other things such as drugs or
special treatment. People have sex for many different reasons,
prostitution is one of them.’
Or this gem: How old do you have to be to buy a vibrator
‘It depends where you buy it from. In
proper sex shops you have to be 18 to enter (online, too, although they
don’t ask for ID!). However, places like Ann Summers are not classed as
sex shops so there shouldn’t be anything to prevent you from buying from
Another question — and I’m not making
this up — asks: ‘Is it normal to have sexual fantasies over dolphins’
The answer is: ‘Sex and normal don’t really go together. People get
turned on by some very weird things and this is perfectly normal. As
long as you are not hurting anyone else — then this is OK. Although, sex
with animals is illegal (fantasising is not).’
This is not merely nonsense, it is
toxic nonsense. I have a vision of a 13-year-old girl, who still wears
her fluffy pink Hello Kitty slippers and whose bedroom is decorated with
pictures of dolphins or horses, being shown this site by her friends
(or possibly her teachers), then being kept awake by vile images of
perverts having sex with animals.
EXTRACTS FROM THE SEXTIONARY
A fetish when someone gets turned on by blindfolding their partner
Sexual act where a man rubs his penis under his partner’s armpit
A slang term for nasty looking genitals infected with a host of different sexually transmitted infections
A fetish when you are turned on by people farting
The sensitive spot also known as the perineum
Sexual act where two women rub or grind their genitals against each other for mutual stimulation
What these people are peddling is a pernicious lie. There is such a thing as ‘normal’ sex, and it’s irresponsible to suggest otherwise to impressionable teenagers.
But because we have allowed our civilisation to be polluted by the tsunami of sewage called pornography, young people are increasingly unable to make a distinction between pornographic behaviour and mutual, loving sex within a ‘normal’ relationship.
A shocking YouGov survey four years ago showed the average young person will have their first exposure to pornography by the age of ten, and that 58 per cent of teens will watch pornography regularly. The controversial new TV series Girls, which reached British screens this week, is already showing how relationships between young men and women are skewed by porn.
The boys are so used to accessing explicit porn freely on their laptops and mobile phones, they are incapable of having ‘normal’ sex. The young women feel they have to go along with it, but feel lost, unloved and used as a result.
Let’s return to the cheerful tone of the Respect Yourself website: ‘The majority of pornography is viewed online these days — in fact, one in every four searches on Google is for pornography! That’s a lot of porn.’
Explaining (perfectly responsibly) that you’re theoretically supposed to be 18 to view internet porn sites, the website goes on: ‘In reality, if you are 14 years old and you have some free time on the family computer, there is very little stopping you from accessing hardcore pornography for yourself from the comfort of your sofa.’
Can anyone pretend that this is not encouraging 14-year-olds to surf porn
And be under no illusions about the kind of thing they will end up seeing. While writing this piece, I subjected myself to the horror of looking at online porn — something I’ve avoided since 2003, when I had to do so while researching a public lecture on pornography given at the University of Bath.
Today, it’s all out there — free, easy to access, and getting worse. With one click, I found myself watching truly appalling scenes of gang rape of young women, some of them dressed to look like schoolgirls.
Imagining, with renewed horror, teenage boys avidly studying sites like that one, I switched from the terrible sounds of women crying out in fear and pain, and men shouting the vilest abuse, back to the Respect Yourself page, which blithely tells the kids they’ll be able to access this filth ‘from the comfort of your sofa’.
And I felt physically sick.
This week, a report revealed that
young people who send sexually explicit pictures to each other (known as
‘sexting’) run a very real risk of these private images being ‘stolen’
by various means and distributed around the internet. Leaving aside the
dangers, would young people have thought to do such a bizarre thing
before they were ‘taught’ it was possible
entire generation is being introduced to dangerous and twisted ideas
about sex — and not just by porn websites, but by a society obsessed
with sex in a way that’s not just unhealthy but deeply corrupting.
point is simple: the abnormal has been made normal. And that is why the
NHS can give its imprimatur to this website, which unquestioningly
fosters ideas that could be harmful and need to be challenged.
A spokesman for Respect Yourself has defended it thus: ‘It is important that young people get something they need and want.’
But is it It seems to me they have far too much of what they need and want already, and that this website is a step too far.
what our children most need is face-to-face emotional guidance from
mature adults who have the courage to exercise judgment, teach them some
old-fashioned values, frown on crude, demeaning language – and who
encourage them to use the simple word ‘No’.