Young people, relationships and sex

The National Union of Students has published a survey of 2,500 students in which many agree that porn is a standard part of a young person’s life.

Key findings include that:

  • 90 percent of students agreed that there should be statutory sex and relationships education;
  • Just a third of students felt that they could practically apply their sex and relationships education lesson to real life, with the same amount admitting their sex and relationships education did not help their confidence;
  • 60 percent of students said they use porn to find out more about sex;
  • 40 percent cited porn as helping their understanding about sex;
  • Almost three quarters of students said that porn provided unrealistic expectations; and
  • Students said that sex and relationships education is treated as a science lesson with puberty (87 percent), contraception (87 percent), sexual health (eight percent), bodies and anatomy (seven percent) listed as the top topics covered.

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NSPCC has published research conducted by StiritUp, a collaborative research project based in five European countries (England, Norway, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Italy) on Safeguarding Teenage Intimate Relationships.

The latest briefing paper is on young people’s perspectives on interpersonal violence and abuse in intimate relationships. Key points include that:

  • In all five countries, online and offline control and surveillance was accepted as normal by many young people;
  • Verbal abuse was extensive and tolerated by many young people interviewed. Physical violence was also normalised, especially when alcohol was involved;
  • Offline sexual pressure was extensive for some young women in all five countries and was normalised to the extent that rape was sometimes not recognised;
  • Young people in four countries had sent sexual images of themselves and in England in particular this was perceived as normal behaviour;
  • Using social networking as a means of perpetrating abuse intensified the impact; and
  • Impact varied according to gender with young women reporting substantially more harmful impact than young men.

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The Howard League for Penal Reform has published a briefing paper on the healthy sexual development of children in prison as part of their Commission on Sex in Prison. Key points include that:

  • The majority of children in custody are adolescent boys aged 15 to 17 who are likely to have reached physical sexual maturity and have not yet reached cognitive, emotional and social maturity;
  • Children in custody are vulnerable and most will have experienced disadvantage. Some will have been sexually abused prior to custody;
  • Prison severely restricts children’s opportunities to form normal healthy relationships and can damage or delay the maturation process;
  • LGBT children are more isolated in prison and more vulnerable to bullying or abuse by other children or by staff;
  • Sexual abuse by other children or by staff does happen in prison;
  • Children in prison should have access to sexual health services;
  • The high levels of violence in prison might be a risk factor for the development of sexual aggression among boys; and
  • The needs of vulnerable children with complex needs cannot be met in large prisons with low staff to child ratios.

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