Some help with possible answers to those difficult sex education questions from students.

Young people come out with the funniest things-  just see here from FPA about cringe questions in honour of sexual health week!

I thought it would be timely to blog some possible answers to difficult questions but remember these are “generic stock answers” that I might use with older secondary students- you will want to tailor your answers to the young person asking the question but thought these may help as a guide if you are completely flummoxed.

Students will often ask “How do gay people have sex”.  My stock answer is “the same as everyone else- sex is usually about being close to someone you care about and expressing those feelings using your body, you can do that in many different ways and are not specific to a particular sexual orientation.” (if appropriate we may list all the different types of sexual activity and then try and allocate a sexual orientation to each one- students soon realise sexual activities are not specific to your sexual orientation!)

“What does semen taste like?”-  How it tastes can often depend on what the male has been eating,  some people might say it tastes a bit salty. Remember semen can carry sexually transmitted infections and you should use condoms for oral sex.

“Why are condoms flavoured?”- because they can be used for oral sex. Make sure you always check for British safety kitemark as those curry flavoured glow in dark rib tickler comedy condoms brought in the cinema toilets for a joke may not actually be safe to use!

“Why do people have anal sex?”- usually it’s because they enjoy it or want to try it. Although porn may make it seem that way- not everyone has or likes anal sex. Remember the anus does not produce any natural lubrication and therefore small tears or bleeding may occur if there isn’t sufficient additional lubrication. This is why anal sex can be a more risky activity for transmitting sexually transmitted diseases and you should always use a condom.  Never let anyone pressure you into having anal sex if you don’t want it (may lead onto discussion about sexual pressure, coercion, so maybe useful to have helpline numbers ready).

“can you get pregnant if you have anal sex?” In order to get pregnant a sperm needs to fertilise an egg in the fallopian tube and travel down the tube into the womb where it implants.  During unprotected penis in vagina sex- sperm is usually deposited at the cervix (neck of the womb) where it will swim up to the fallopian tube to see if there is an egg present.  This all happens in the reproductive tract.  In anal sex the penis is inserted into the anus which is part of the digestive tract.  The reproductive and digestive systems are separate and different. However if you have unprotected anal sex (no condom) with a female there is a possibility that semen deposited in the anus could dribble out and be around the vulva (external female genitals) and there is a possibility that sperm could swim up the vagina and still fertilise an egg.  It would be unlikely but it is not impossible.

“What will happen if you have sex under 16?”- sex under the age of 16 is illegal. If found out there could be consequences including being put on the sex offenders register or even jailtime.  Under the age of 13 legally it is deemed you cannot consent to sex and therefore the police would take this extremely seriously. Between the ages of 13-16 it is a bit of a grey area and will depend on several things- the age differential (are you and your partner close in age eg. two 15year olds may not be prosecuted but a 25year old having sex with a 13 year old is more likely to be prosecuted.) and whether there was any co-ercion or abuse within the situation.   I do know of a case where two 15 year olds were having sex (and both happy and consenting) but mother of the 15year old girl pushed for a prosecution which although the police were reluctant to proceed with it did eventually go to court and the boy in the relationship ended up on the sex offenders register.

Are there any other questions you often get in sex education lessons and need help answering? Feel free to comment or tweet me and I will do my best to answer!

Tips on how to answer questions in sex ed!

Below is a handout I did as part of a training a couple of years ago about answering difficult questions.  As this week is sexual health week and FPA have been running their fab- “cringe questions” campaign, then I thought it might be timely to assist those covering sex education in schools with how to answer difficult questions.  Next blog post – sample answers to the hardest questions!

Asking and answering questions.

Although most students will be able to ask questions within lessons some students may feel too shy. Establishing an anonymous question box for use in lessons is very useful.  Ask students to write down questions anonymously and put them into the question box which you agree to answer at the next lesson (This gives you time to work out the answers!). Reassure the class that anonymity will be maintained and no one will be identified from their handwriting etc (you must ensure any other adults in the classroom do not break this commitment).

If there is a question you don’t feel is appropriate to answer in a whole class setting because of age appropriateness or concerns about a child protection issue – then say to the class that if anyone hasn’t had their questions answered they should come and see you after class

It is very important not to make fun of a student’s question, or allow any other students to do so, as that will make the student asking the question feel silly and less likely to ask questions in the future. Even if it is a comedy question (you will get them!) you need to reinforce to the class that there are no silly questions, and since students are all at different stages of development then peoples questions will all be different but all should be answered equally.

Some students may occasionally ask personal questions about your private life – firmly and pleasantly refer them back to the group agreement – that personal lives are not disclosed.

Some students may ask questions deliberately to try to embarrass you – you are likely to be able to tell when this is happening and by mentioning this explicitly that this is unacceptable within the session establishing the group agreement- you could say to students: “please do not ask questions with the aim of embarrassing me, yourself or other members of the class, I can tell when you are doing this and you run the risk of none of your questions being taken seriously in the future, even if they are genuine ones.”  This usually stops questions that are not genuine.


Sample group agreement.

Openness –we will be open and honest but not to disclose our own or others’ personal/private lives.  Discuss general situations as examples but do not use names or identifying descriptions.The classroom is a safe space– we feel safe discussing general issues relating to sex and relationships within this space and know that as long as we are not at risk teachers will maintain a certain level of confidentiality.  Outside of the classroom we are aware that other people may feel uncomfortable with such discussions. Also our friends may sometimes give us misinformation so we are aware of the “safe” sources of information such as Sense DVD, our local young person’s clinic.Non-judgemental approach- It is okay for us to disagree with another person point of view but  we will not  judge, make fun of, or put down anybody

Right to pass- Participation is important, however we have the right to pass on answering a question or participating in an activity.

Make no assumptions– we will not make assumptions about people’s values, attitudes, behaviours, life experiences or feelings.

Listening to others point of view and sharing your own-  we will listen to the other person’s point of view and expect to be listened to

Using language- We will use the correct terms for the things we will be discussing rather than the slang terms as some people can find them offensive. If we are not sure what the correct term is – we will ask our teacher.

Asking questions- we know that there are no stupid questions. We do not ask questions to deliberately try to embarrass anyone else because this means that our questions may not be taken seriously in the future, even if they are genuine ones.  There is a question box available for anonymous questions.