SEX EDUCATION TO ADOLESCENTS
( By Dr. Vithal Prabhu )

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Sex Education

If the average person knew as little about eating as he does about sex, he would quickly starve to death” Dr. David Reuben Sexual Health “Sexual health is the integration of somatic, emotional, intellectual and social aspects of sexual being, in ways that are positively enriching and that enhance personality, communication and love.” World Health Organization Fudamental to this concept is the right to sexual information and the right to pleasure. According to Mace and others sexual health includes three basic elements:



  1. A capacity to enjoy and control sexual behaviour in accordance with a social and personal ethic.


  2. Freedom from fear, shame, guilt, false belief and other psychological factors inhibiting sexual response and impairing sexual relationship.


  3. Freedom from organic disorders, diseases and deficiencies that interfere with sexual and reproductive functions. Sexuality is a dimension of personality.

It implies thinking, feeling and behavioural reactions associated with maleness or femaleness of an individual. Human sexuality refers to whole range of behaviour associated with psycho-biological phenomena of sex. Sex drive lies dormant in childhood, blooms in adolescence, flowers in youth and wills in old age. The critical period is that of adolescence when curiosity about sex is highest.

Sex Education (Here and elsewhere in this book the term “Sex Education” is loosly used and it means “Sexuality Education.”) Sex education is defined as an educational programme aimed at promoting the individual’s fulfillment, both in personal living and in his family and social relationships, by integrating sexuality in total personality. Sex education is a lifelong process of acquiring information and forming attitudes, beliefs and values about identity, relationship and intimacy. World Health Organization (WHO) and International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) have stressed the need of sex education. National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT) has accepted it in principle WHO Findings



  1. Sexuality education programme does not hasten the onset of intercourse. It can delay the onset of intercourse.
  2. There is no evidence that the sexuality education leads to earlier or increased sexual experience.
  3. Sexuality education increases the adoption of safer practices by sexually experienced youth.

Sex Education : Why?
To acquire information, beliefs and values about identity, relationships, intimacy and reproductive biology. To understand the positive view of sexuality. To provide information and skills about taking care of and to promote their sexual health. To help them make decisions now and in future. To prepare for marriage and responsible parenthood. To learn to enjoy and control their sexual behaviour and to promote responsible reproductive behaviour. For freedom from shame, guilt and false beliefs about sexuality.

For freedom from sexual dysfunctions and organic disorders. To create awareness about sexual abuse, teenage pregnancy, STD-HIV infection, population explosion and quackery. To create awareness about sexual-social issues like gender discrimination, child marriage, dowry, prostitution and Deodasees. The primary goal of sex education is promotion of sexual and reproductive health. There is a pressing need to raise the levels of information of the young people who are embarking on sexually active life. From experience and research it is clear that sex education has the potential to improve the sexual health of an individual, and so of community and of the nation. Sex education is like immunization. It can help to prevent physical, psychological, marital and social problems related to sexuality.

The word “Sex/Sexuality” is still a taboo in many cultures. Therefore it may be camouflaged by calling as: “Adolescent Health Education” “Family Life Education” “Population Education” Though each differs in some respects, it does include sex education. Sex Education to Children under Ten Years Sex education to adolescents can best be a continuation of sex education to children; and hence is discussed here briefly.

Tips For Parents/Teachers :
Sex education begins at birth. Each new born baby needs to be wanted, loved and accepted. Building feelings of self worth is an important part of sex education. Patents should love, kiss, touch and hold the baby close to them. Answer questions when they come up. If you don't know the answer admit it and find it out. The answer should be with honest, simple and brief explanation. If children do not come out with questions, ask them if there is anything they would like to know. The child should be given information in a scientific and objective manner, without making the child feel embarrassed. Use standard terminology in regional language.

Who should give sex education? Father or mother?
The parent to whom the question is directed should answer it. Though there is wisdom in mother-to-daughter and father-to-son approaching, sometimes atleast both parents should discuss sex matter with the child. During schooling, the teacher should pick it up. In fact, sex education is a joint responsibility of home school, college and community institutions. If child is found touching or rubbing its genitals it indicates resentment, anxiety or guilt. Ignore, distract or substitute with a toy, game or with a sweet. Instruct the child (without scolding) not to do it in public. Never say, "Do not ask such stupid question" "Don't play with yourself" "You dirty boy" 'Shut Up" Parents should tell their children the correct name of the genital organ, as Penis, testis, vulva, vagina, anus as and when concerned; otherwise children will learn slang words from their friends. To avoid sexual abuse of children, the parents - should give the following instructions to their children



  1. Do not allow any one to touch your private parts
  2. Do not touch other's private parts if asked to
  3. Do not keep it secret, if any such thing happen
  4. Do not accept sweets or gifts from unknown person
  5. Do not accompany unknown person if asked to.

Assure youngsters later especially when they go through puberty- that they are normal. Built up children's self esteem. Recognise their talents and accomplishments and avoid comparing them with others. If the child is caught while indulging in masturbation, the parents should realise that masturbation is a natural stage in development of a child.

When should Sex Education begin?
Sexuality education is a life long process of acquiring information, forming attitudes beliefs and values. Sex education should begin whenever the child asks the question, regardless of age of the child. If the children are old enough to ask questions, they are old enough to get the answers. Some children ask questions about sex by the age of three years. Others may ask earlier or later. Whenever the child asks the first question about sex, it is the time for the parents to answer.

The parents answers and the way they voice them, play an important part in forming children's future attitude and basic opinions about sex. Frank and honest response can help assure them of a healthy outlook. Their curiosity about sexual matters is without sensuality and as simple as that about plants and animals. Would it be dangerous to speak to him prematurily? Better a year too soon than a minute too late.

What if the child does not ask? Then find out the occasion: pregnancy in the family, arrivel of a sibling a movie, or a story. When to seek outside counselling help? When you are very concerned about a behaviour or a problem, don't hesistate to take help. Often help is directed toward the parents or the whole family rather than toward the child. When help is sought early, the problem may be solved easily. Child guidance Clinics, Psychylogist, Psychiastrists, Counsellors, sex therapists and family service agencies offer help.

The need for sex education at the age of 3 to 10 years: 1) That they have come from both their father and mother. 2) Elementary information of fertilization, pregnancy and delivery. 3) The object of this teaching is to strengthen their sense of belonging to their parents, and thus also their sense of security. 5) This will enable children to set off any false idea that they may have acquired from their peers or from mass media. All that is required is to give factual knowledge of sexual matters by asking questions put by the child over the years.

Age 3 to 7 years

    IChild has ability to identify with the parent of the same sex.


  1. There is a steady liberation from a strong dependence on parents.


  2. There is considerable interest in sexual sphere.


  3. There is a need to mix with children of the same age and observe intersex differences in physical structure. The sex roles are also increasingly stabilised.


  4. An awareness of acting (or not acting) according to the demands and expectations of the immediate environment is developed.


  5. Playing with genitals is a normal phenomenon.

Age 7 to 10 years


  1. The information on sexuality given at this level should be elementary. Children at this age are intellectually incapable of acquiring a coherent picture as regards to anatomy and physiology of sex organs. However, all questions put by children should be answered.


  2. Children receive false information from their school friends and through media that needs correction and creates insecuity and anxiety.


  3. Teaching should be in the form of discussion and should utilise childrens' own questions and relate to current events.

The idea that a background for sex education can suitably be prepared by discussing reproduction in plants and animals (Birds and Bees) has persisted in general consciousness. Such an approach is rejected on the grounds that children at that age do not possess a knowledge of plant and animal reproduction sufficiently extensive to provide a basis and starting point for teaching reproduction in man. Instead, teaching should start directly with a discription of how children are born, thus relating directly to the child's own life situation.

Menstruation : Information may be given that the female genitalia function in such a way that bleeding occurs once a month from the uterus into the vagina. Nothing abnormal need be feared if it takes place between 10 to 16 years. The most usual age is 13 years.

Intercourse : Children put logical question of how the sperm cells of man get over to the egg cell of woman. It becomes terrible and awful for many parents/teachers to tell the child the fact of life. Child himself will listen without any sensuous feeling that the father puts his penis in the slit between two legs of mother and thus sperm cells from him get into the mother.

This information should be supplemented with an explanation that this is called "intercourse" and is something which has to do with love, tenderness, closeness and togetherness marriage and also arrival of a baby. Otherwise seeing the dogs copulating on the street, the boys may feel that the act of intercourse goes on for hours. After hearing from their friends or after seeing a rape seene on the T.V. the girls may say that intercourse is something strange and awful and that they would not like to participate when they grow. Such reaction cannot be avoided by not mentioning anything about intercourse in sex education. They will have to acquire knowledge in any case. It is desirable that the reaction should emerge when the child is in contact with the parents/teacher.

The girl should know that it is a natural process, that the whole thing will feel different when she grows up, that it is not painful and that in any case she need to experience it before getting married. (Those girls who receive the message that intercourse is painful may suffer from a condition called "Vaginismus", an involuntary spasm of the vaginal muscle at the intercourse that may lead to unconsummation and marital disharmony.)

Pregnancy : The reasons for dealing with it are that it is an account of child's "past history" and that girls are worried that it will be extremely painful when they bear children themselves. Boys and girls find information of pregnancy useful when further child is expected in the family.

Delivery : The question that whether it hurts to have a baby should be answered in the affirmative. It should be mentioned that it is different for different people. Coloured pictures will help to understand the elementary knowledge about the subject. However, photographs showing blood and other details can frighten the children and hence should not be shown.

Sexual Behaviour of children from Birth to ten years :

Birth to Two years : Infants learn about sexuality through being held and caressed and as they begin to explore their own body. By the age of one year most babies enjoy touching their genitals. Normal curiocity makes babies start to explore their own bodies. During the process of toilet training, childer become more aware of their genital agea. All babies explore their sex organs and some like to fondle them often.

Three to four years : Children begin asking questions about, "where babies come from" Three years old is too young to understand anatomical differencess in males and females. At the age of 4, boys have increased genital sesations. They grasp their genitals when upset. By the age of 4, they begin playing" Mummy and Daddy" or "Doctor" and examine one another's genitals. This behaviour is a natural part of developing sexual indentification. They are capable of all the sensual feelings. They just don't see it as "sexual". Children may like to watch adults getting undressed. They learn about public and private behaviour and about respecting privacy of others.

Five to Six years : They want to become close to the same sex parent. They become sure of their masculinity or feminity. This is the time to bring sexual topic and encourage openness about sexuality. By five years most children become modest and want to have privacy for dressing and bathroom use. Their interest in sex play is less than at the age of four. Children become sensitive to difference between two sexes. They develop strong same-sex friendship and increased interest in male/female roles. Children became conscious that certain kinds of questions make adults uncomfortable. But just because they don't ask questions does not mean that they don't have questions. They are aware of AIDS, rape, child abuse, family planning etc. So, parents need to keep on talking News paper headline can be used as a conversation opener.

Six to eight years : Children learn new words referring to sexuality. Some of them are slang. Such words may be used as an attention seeking device. Self esteem and decision making are enhanced through the responsibilities the child has at home e.g. making his bed, helping in daily chores he likes. The child learns to direct his activities in construtive ways.

Sexual fantasies involving a male/female relative are quite common at this age. Parents need to convey to children that feelings, thoughts and fantasies should be accepted non judgementally and that they are not synonymous with carrying out fantasy. Chidren playing with one's own genitals, is common act at this age. If they do this openly, they should be reassured that it is not wrong but that it is one of the things that people do in private.

Nine to Ten Years : Rapid growth spurts are common. Some develop early others late. Some rapidly, others slowly. The nipples may start budding. In some boys and girls hari may start growing in pubic region. Priate fendling of genitals occurs. It is a normal activity and is a natural release for sexual tension. Questions about intercourse may arise. Honest answers are best because children hear many stories from the friends. Adult emotions involved in sexual intercourse are beyond the capacity of the preteen to understand. Physical changes are a major concern to them. They will often examine the genitals of friends of opposite sex or of the same sex. This is the way they compare and confirm their own physical development as being acceptable.

Common Questions asked by children :

Age 3-6

Q.: Mummy, why Mary is not like me?
A.: John, boys are different from girls. All boys have a small pipe like yours between the legs and all girls have a little opening just like Mary's between the legs. That is the main difference between a boy and a girl.

Q.: How is that boys don't pise by sitting?
A.: Boys have a little pipe for passing urine, so, they need not sit. Girls do not have it. They sit and pass the urine to avoid spilling urine on their clothers. Girls have a special place between their legs for passing urine.

Q.: How are baies made?
A. When mom and dad make love, and when they want to have a baby, a cell from father's body joins the egg cell in the mothers body. That starts a baby as small as a pin point. The baby grows in a special space in the mother's tummy and comes out through a passage between her two legs.

Q.: How does the baby come out?
A.: The baby comes out through the passage situated between the two legs of the mother.

Q.: Where does baby come from?
A.: From a special space in mother's tummy.

Q.: Does food fall on baby's head?
A.: No. Baby grows in a special bag situated in the lower part of the tummy.

Q.: How did baby get in there?
A.: When father and mother make love, father puts his penis int he split the mother has between her legs. The cell from father gets into the mother and meets the egg cell in the mother. (The child has no possibility of imagining the pleasure of intercourse.)

Q.: Shall I see the place from where I came?
A.: No it is a private place.

Q.: Shall I see how you and dad make a baby.
A.: No. making baby is a private affair. Making a baby needs a personal and special relationship.

Q.: Does it hurt when the baby comes out?
A.: Yes, a bit, but mummy forgets it because of love towards her child.

Q.: Mummy, will dad have a baby?
A.: No. He doesn't have the special space for developing a baby.

Q.: Can a girl plant a baby in boys' tummy?
A.: No. Only the boys can plant a baby and only the girls can have a baby.

Q.: Why aunty does not make a baby?
A.: Quite a lot of people cannot have children. So they may adopt a baby and bring them up with all love and care.

Age 7 to 10

Q.: Will I have breasts like you?
A.: (To a girl) Yes when you are grown up. (To a boy) No. Boys do not develop breats as girls

Q.: What is a condom?
A.: It is a rubber sheath used by men to prevent giving birth to a child and to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

Mummy, what is sanitary pad used for?
A.: All the girls when they are about 12 or 14, start bleeding every month from the passage between two legs. It is a stage when a girl grows into a woman. It is a natural process. Nature makes certain preparations in her body every month. Unwanted tissues and blood are thrown out of her body. This is called "menstruation". Every girl has a small bag in the lower part of her belly to hold the baby, when it arrives. Nature prepares in it a bed of tissures and blood every month, to be thrown out every month until a girl gets pregnant, when the baby grows on this bed. After she delivers a baby, the process of menstruation starts again every month.

Q.: Why boys do not get menstruation?
A.: They do not have a uterus where baby grows.

Q.: Do girls get wet dreams?
A.: No. They do not have organ to process semen, and so they do not discharge any fluid in their sleep.

Q.: What are testes for?
A.: When grown up the testes produce some chemical called teststorone hormone that is responsible for promoting boys to manhood. When grown up the testes produce innumerable small cells called "sperms" that are required for making a baby.

Q.: Can I have a baby.
A.: No. Girls after growing up become women. They get married at a proper age. After marriage they have sexual intercourse with their husband. When the sperm cell from the man meets the ovum cell in the woman, a baby is made (born). Earlier, sex education was thought to be introduced to children by way of reproduction in plants and animals. Since these topics are taught in the class and since this information does not satisfy their curiosity about their own body, it was thought best to be specific and provide information about human being, and try to develop the right attitudes and values.

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