Take sex out of the dark

Sexual development expert Alan McKee.
Sexual development expert Alan McKee.

The Queensland University of Technology Professor had high praise for the WA Health Department’s 2012 publication Talk soon. Talk often, which advocates parents talking clearly, openly and often with their children about sexuality so that it became a normal, not taboo, subject.

Prof McKee, who has had research published in the International Journal of Sexual Health, said being honest and age-appropriate when discussing sex meant children would always know they could go to their parents to talk .

He said this was the essence of reducing rocketing sexually transmitted infection statistics in Western Australian youth and vital for the establishment of consensual sex.

Prof McKee said 80-90 per cent of 90 Australian 14-15-year-olds surveyed knew to use a condom but wanted to learn about how to approach someone about starting a relationship, how to cope with break-ups and how to make sex more pleasurable for themselves and their partners.

‘They all know they need to use a condom. Schools, their parents and the media have told them, but the science info isn’t being made relevant to them,’ he said.

‘They are told ‘don’t have sex, it’s bad, you’ll get pregnant or catch an STI’ but it’s a take on sex they don’t relate to. They are not developing the skills to help them relate sex to their everyday life,’ he said.

‘No one is telling kids that when they are ready for it sex is an enjoyable and healthy part of human life.’

Prof McKee said in the Netherlands where parents talked openly about sex to their children, the average age for first time sex was 17½ years, compared to 16 in Australia.

He said at the heart of healthy sexual identity was consent and knowing what each partner wanted. Talking about it openly was key to STI prevention – without clearly knowing if both parties want to have sex, a condom is often not produced and sex just happens.

Visit public.health.wa.gov.au to download a copy of Talk soon. Talk often.


STI STATISTICS

Chlamydia:
– Notifications in WA increased threefold to 12,000 in 2012 since 2003.
– There were higher rates for females aged 15-24.
– 83 per cent of notifications were people under 30.

Gonorrhoea:
– 45 per cent increase in notifications between 2003-2012.
– The highest rates were for women aged 15-24.
– 75 per cent of notifications were people under 30.