Image: Herman Engbers

Love lessons fit biology

In sexuality education, students learn about the biology of the body and sexuality. Teachers at Twents Carmel College De Thij in Oldenzaal thought that was too scant and expanded the package with love lessons.

'What do you think of when you think of sex? You can shout anything that comes to mind.' Usually it starts safely with saying nice words, says biology & health teacher Kim Neef of Twents Carmel College De Thij in Oldenzaal. To be in love. To marry. Bed. Sexual intercourse. Once they cross the threshold, other jargon follows: jerking off, blowing, eating pussy. And in less appropriate language: cock, cunt and fuck. “Then I indicate which words are preferable: penis, vagina and making love and sexual intercourse,” says Neef. “At the end of the lesson there is a lot on the board. Also, by default, the names of a few porn sites are mentioned; they know exactly what is for sale.” It's important to talk about that. Are images on a porn site realistic? What are differences between a female and a male orgasm? In the past, the emphasis was on the technical aspect of lovemaking, not the pleasure. We do want to teach students that you have to have safe sex, but that sex should above all be fun.”

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“Sex education has been put away in the biology curriculum. The books explain exactly how everything works in the body, but how do feelings work, how do you enter into a relationship with each other, how do you indicate wishes and boundaries and discover your sexual preferences? That was missing.”

Butterflies

At De Thij, the biology lessons are not only about biology, but also about health and citizenship. That includes love lessons. These lessons start at the end of the first grade when the students already know each other well. Falling in love, butterflies in the stomach, physical changes and learning to say no are discussed. The contraceptive case also comes out of the closet with artificial penises and contraceptives. “More than 'how do you put on a condom?' it's about how to start the conversation about contraception and how to check the expiration date of contraceptives.”

'The first lesson is often still giggling, because 'the sex lessons have started', but gradually the load goes off'

In the second class you will learn about the functioning of the body of men and women and the deepening of sexual diversity: whether you are straight, gay, transsexual or something in between. “They talk about it with each other and on social media. The first lesson is often still giggling, because 'the sex lessons have started', but gradually the load goes off. Sex is anything but a taboo here at school.”

Colleague Elies Schledorn, philosophy of life teacher, adds: “And the nice thing is: from pre-vocational secondary education to pre-university education: when it comes to sexuality education, there is no difference whatsoever.”

Her lessons also promote the development of self-knowledge. Sometimes by filling in a word web. Another time through the line game where the students can stand closest to the line they feel related to. Have you ever been in love? Have you ever asked for a date? “Depending on the atmosphere, you pick up something. It is important not to force anything.”

Classes are also an ideal time to discuss gender diversity. “Students have sometimes come out of the closet in the upper years.”

swear word

Gay is the most commonly used swear word, says Elies, who likes to show an interview of a gay boy on the Youth News in her lessons. He said that it is difficult to be open about your sexuality, because gay is often used as a swear word. “In the past I have also asked a former student for a guest lesson. Students usually listen carefully when someone speaks openly.”

Kim Neef: “Usually they don't ask many questions. The student who himself struggles with his sexual identity usually addresses himself separately to a colleague who is open about it.”

'The rule is: you don't have to answer any questions and you decide when you want to say something'

To be able to speak openly about sex, the atmosphere must be safe, Schledorn emphasizes: "The rule is: you don't have to answer any questions and you decide when you want to say something."

On Purple Friday, the school pays separate attention to sexual diversity as part of its citizenship education. “At the biology & health section, we think that's more important than studying a plant. You learn to live together by seeing and accepting each other's point of view.”

The school has been working with the teaching package 'Long live love' for more than eight years now. Recently, the 'gender identity' component has increased. Schledorn: “Love is a very beautiful word. Even if you make it small. Then it's about loving yourself. I also like to pay attention to that, especially in puberty, which is a very uncertain phase. Are you happy with yourself? Then it will benefit society. You have to get to know yourself and be allowed to be as you are.”

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