Life & Style Weekend - - YOU - DADDY-O WORDS: OWEN JAC­QUES Fol­low Owen Jac­ques Jour­nal­ist on Face­book and @Owen­jay on Twit­ter.

Boys have penises, girls have vagi­nas. This is the kind of shock­ing in­for­ma­tion some Aus­tralian schools are teach­ing chil­dren as young as seven. Can you imag­ine a world where a child can look down at them­selves in the shower and know what they’re see­ing? That’s the world that is terrifying the shadow ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter in Vic­to­ria. Like so many oth­ers who find scar­ing par­ents to be fer­tile ground for elec­tion­eer­ing, Tim Smith is warn­ing that line draw­ings that de­pict a pe­nis or vagina are “graphic” and be­long in an “X-rated movie”. They’re line draw­ings even less graphic than the crude pe­nis a 10-year-old draws in a friend’s notepad. In Year 3 when chil­dren are be­tween eight or nine years old, they learn more about gen­i­tals. It even in­cludes the proper sci­en­tific names for things. That in­cludes the cli­toris, the ure­thra, prostate gland and blad­der. Stu­dents try to name the parts. I’m sure Mr Smith fears that once chil­dren know the term prostate, sex with wild aban­don is around the cor­ner. The blus­ter from politi­cians and oth­ers is non­sense. Chil­dren be­gin to ask ques­tions about gen­i­tals and about sex as soon as they’re able to talk. They point at Mummy and ask, “What’s that?” then ask, “Does Daddy have one? Why not?” They soon want to know where they came from, how their brother or sis­ter was made, and why they have dif­fer­ent bits. Speak­ing in hushed tones about their bodies serves no pur­pose ex­cept to con­fuse a child and give them a sense of shame. Teach­ing kids about anatomy and sex – whether it’s by par­ents or teach­ers – is about more than just knowl­edge, it’s about safety. At a time when gon­or­rhoea rates have dou­bled and syphilis cases have tripled, our young peo­ple need to know about their bodies long be­fore they learn about STIs. They can’t sud­denly learn ev­ery­thing at 15. Schools need to teach sex ed­u­ca­tion. It can’t all be left to par­ents. Kids go on camps, they play catch-and-kiss and they’re ex­posed to a lot of sex­u­ally charged con­tent that is far more ac­ces­si­ble to­day. The con­fi­dence that comes with that knowl­edge means they will grow up know­ing when and why they want to have sex, and hope­fully how to do it safely. If achiev­ing that be­gins with learn­ing the words “pe­nis” and “vagina” then so be it.

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