current affairs

Yas Necati: Changing the future of sex education

Yas Necati, the brains behind the petition calling on PM David Cameron to bring sex and relationship education into the 21st century (BetterSexEdcation), speak

Yas Necati, the brains behind the petition calling on PM David Cameron to bring sex and relationship education into the 21st century (BetterSexEdcation), speaks exclusively to Kettle Mag’s Women’s Editor Salma Haidrani, relieving her memories of watching VHS videos in the school classroom and her worries that online porn is increasingly acting as a substitute for teaching teenagers of her generation how they should behave in relationships.

Necati is no ordinary 17 year old. How many 17 year olds can claim to have challenged Nick Clegg on his LBC radio show that sex and relationship education in line with the 21st century should be available to all teenagers? Dangerously outdated (the current sex and relationship education guidelines were last updated an astonishing 13 years ago) and with no mention of issues including healthy relationships, consent and social networking sites, millions of teenagers are consequently left to learn about sex and relationships from online pornography.

Necati took matters into her own hands, joining forces with The Daily Telegraph’s Wonder Women to demand for much-needed change. The campaign has since received the backing of a string of MPs including former Child Minister Tim Loughton, David Cameron’s adviser on the sexualisation of children Claire Perry and the PM himself.

How much will that translate into providing future generations with the sex education they deserve? I caught up with the very inspirational Yas Necati to find out more.

What notable event inspired you to launch the campaign to update the sex education curriculum in secondary schools in the UK?

I think it’s just that I left school feeling really uninformed about the social side of sex and relationships. I felt let down to be honest… like the education system had failed to deliver any relevant and contextual information. The teachers seemed that they wanted more guidance and the lessons were out of date (we were watching VHS!). I got out of school, and I had a think and I realised just how inadequate my sex education had been. It upset me and I became really passionate to make a change. I don’t want other generations to go through such a poor and uninformative curriculum.

What negative implications do you believe that the absence of updated sex education in schools has had on teenagers?

We just feel terribly unprepared! It’s all very well talking about biology, but when you get into a relationship and have proper sexual contact, it’s about so much more than just the science. Where is our guidance on that?

Without any proper advice, teenagers often turn to online pornography for answers (something which wasn’t accessible thirteen years ago when the curriculum was last updated). In fact we know that a third of teenagers actually believe that porn teaches them how to be in a relationship. A lack of education is damaging young people’s understanding of how to interact with one another. We’re feeling lost and confused and turning to online sources for our answers. This is giving young people very warped and unrealistic perceptions about sex. All we want is some helpful information!

What has been your campaign highlight?

I just think the sheer number of people who have shown their support is the highlight for me. It’s been wonderful to cover the campaign on the news and spread the word to a large audience… but I think what I love most is the positive reaction we’ve gotten from that audience. The petition now has over 31,000 signatures and is growing every day. It just shows how many people really want this to happen. I’m really glad that the campaign has given them an opportunity to add their voices and speak out. Witnessing thousands of people stand up for what they believe in and asking for change is a really magical thing to experience.

What challenges have you encountered since creating the campaign?

The biggest challenge is definitely seeing physical change. Both Nick Clegg and David Cameron have agreed that the curriculum needs to be updated… but nothing has actually been done about it yet. Until the government takes action and updates the curriculum our focus is just going to be on asking them, very nicely, to do so.

What would you say to those that claim that sex education is the primary responsibility of parents?

Firstly, most teenagers would never feel comfortable talking to their parents about sex and relationships. I remember having a brief conversation with my mum about sex and sexual consent when I was younger (which is more than most teenagers), but I would never, ever feel comfortable approaching my parents to discuss porn. Moreover, with many aspects of the digital lifestyle, parents simply don’t understand it. Some parents might have Facebook, Twitter or whatever, but many parents are completely alien to social media. Watching their children grow up heavily under the influence of something they don’t understand can be a scary experience. Many parents have approached me since the start of the campaign and said that they’re really happy that we’re asking for change. They want their children to be educated, informed and safe, and they want help from schools to do this.

Secondly, it’s this simple: you wouldn’t leave any other subject on the shelf for thirteen years. Why should sex education be any different?

Why did you decide to work with Telegraph Wonder Women for the campaign?

The Daily Telegraph have been really supportive of the No More Page 3 campaign, which is something I’ve been helping out with for a while now. When I discovered they wanted to do a campaign on better sex education I was really keen to work with them, as it was something I wanted to start up as well. We both felt really passionately about the inadequacy of the current curriculum and the steps we could take to update it. Telegraph Wonder Women really are the perfect people to work with on this, they’re absolutely wonderful.

Finally, can we hope that one day our teenagers will be able to receive 21st century sex and relationships education?

I hope so. We’re just waiting for the government to listen to us and take action. I’ve no doubt that they’re going to update the curriculum soon (and we won’t stop pressuring them until they do!). Teachers, parents and students all want #BetterSexEducation. It’s time for change.

To support this fantastic campaign for #BetterSexEducation, sign this.