Suzi Boulting began her journey of transforming the way sex education is taught in schools back in 2018. As a young woman herself, fresh out of A-levels, Suzi had the first-hand experience of what the school curriculum was teaching - or rather, what it lacked. Finding holes within the system, Suzi developed a training program facilitated by young people for teachers to gain the skills to feel comfortable delivering Sex and Relationship Education (RSE). We wanted to hear more about Suzi's ideas and gain some insight into the conversations she believes should be had between teenagers and adults.
What was the catalyst behind starting your project Teaching The Talk?
I started Teaching ‘The Talk’ in an effort to empower young people’s voices in the delivery of sex education. In my own experience, I often felt cut off from influencing how these important conversations were talked about in a classroom. For a topic which is often talked about in relation to the education of young people, I felt frustrated that the conversation often does not extend to young people.
Often people worry that talking to young people about sex is in some way making them vulnerable or ruining their innocence.
I felt that both young people and teachers would benefit from a safe space where everyone could share their opinions (and fears) around how sex education in the present day
should be delivered.
Can you describe for us your own definition of what sex and sexuality mean?
Sex and sexuality is a very personal definition for every individual, to define what counts as intimate or sexual is dependent on what each person feels for themselves. This personal definition should be shared in schools more openly as it's much more positive than young people feeling they should be experiencing something that only fits into a narrow definition of sex and sexuality used by mainstream conversations.
What tools have been most helpful for you to learn to speak more openly about “taboo” topics of conversation?
An ability to laugh at the very topics that we see as ‘taboo’ - learning how to control our
embarrassment through having open and honest conversations is extremely helpful.
I believe that conversations around sex education should start with people acknowledging the very embarrasment which often stops them from talking things through in the first place.
Even laughing at the word sex can be empowering for young people and adults alike because it takes control of something which feels very uncontrollable.
Do you feel there is a barrier of shame that exists between adults and youngsters when engaging in sexual education?
I think that speaking about sex education can be a difficult conversation for people of any age. Teaching ‘The Talk’ is about getting adults to start conversations and allowing young people to continue them, which combats that shame that adults may feel when
talking about sex. Young people deserve to have questions answered and conversations started without taking on the shame that adults may feel themselves about sex. Sex education is about building on the knowledge that young people already have.
Young people deserve to have questions answered and conversations started without taking on the shame that adults may feel themselves about sex.
What advice would you give to adults when it comes to talking about sex?
Make sure that you are being as inclusive of every identity and experience that you can. Often young people need to feel represented in a conversation more than having a perfectly planned conversation. By taking in questions or listening, it can be more helpful than you know. A lot of young people that Teaching ‘The Talk’ has spoken to would rather adults were brave enough to start a conversation than having all the answers at that time. Listening to the experiences of others is absolutely key to empowering sex education.
From your research, what is the biggest barrier of shame that silences youngsters today?
The lack of knowledge, often young people are not ashamed to speak of sex but afraid that they may not have the right vocabulary to ask the questions in the first place. Young people know themselves better than anyone else but they may not have the words to ask the questions they need to ask. This, in turn, can mean that young people may feel unable to speak up in the first place.
Often young people are not ashamed to speak of sex but afraid that they may not have the right vocabulary to ask the questions in the first place.
The updated sex education curriculum brings us up to speed on gender and sexual fluidity. However, it doesn’t mention topics such as pornography. Suzi shared with us what she sees as the pros and cons of the curriculum in the images below.
What changes do you feel need to happen to encourage more open communication between adults and teenagers?
I think that adults need to trust young people in their own knowledge. If we start seeing
conversations about sex and relationships as something which both adults and teenagers can learn from then it can be beneficial for young people and adults alike. Teaching ‘The Talk’ encourages people to see these conversations as empowering for all those involved, if adults assume that all responsibility of knowledge is on them, they may feel as though these
conversations are too intimidating to even begin them. Respecting that both sides of the
conversation are just as important is a good place to start.
You can find more information about training and advice on the Teaching 'The Talk' website