My high school experiences were set on the eve of smart phone domination. Camera phones were becoming increasingly popular, whilst pixelated pornographic videos, objectifying women and misinforming teenagers were in regular circulation. I have distinct memories of the boys on the school bus huddled around giggling at the images of topless women on Page 3 and a porn video called ‘Two Girls, One Cup’ as the bus driver turned a blind eye.
Their laughter was infectious and covered the silence in the classroom. This was our sex education. Our only sex education. These were the images we had to compare ourselves to. This was our ‘norm’.
That was fine (for me at the time). I was probably thankful to be saved the embarrassment of the cringeworthy birds and the bee’s chat. After all, the shame was instilled in me from a very young age. ‘Catholic guilt’ is a very real phenomenon.
That being said, I didn’t have a clue about what I was missing out on. I hadn’t the slightest understanding of this void in my education. Nor the side effects permeating around me. Slut shaming, lad culture, unrealistic body image and sexual expectations prevailed, whilst sexual harassment became commonplace, everyday playground banter. I can’t help but feel that even the most basic sex education class or information leaflet would have combatted this even if just a little.
According to the recent an NSPCC/ChildLine survey 6 out of 10 teenagers say they have been asked for sexual images or videos.
It seems in 2018 this problem is on the rise with often the only readily accessible information in some denominational schools being porn.
At uni I was shocked to learn about my non-denominational educated peers’ experiences of sex education. Condoms on a banana?! They were taking the mick, surely? But nope, it was true. And just like that my bubble was burst. Then came the flooding awful realisation of my censored education, the denying of literature of debates and of social conditioning.
In my new play ‘Immaculate Correction’ at the King’s Head Theatre, the protagonist Stacey notes that her teacher: ‘...doesn’t talk about sex in sex education class. She doesn’t talk about femidoms, or the pill or the any of the rest of it. But I’ve seen condoms cos they’re cracking water balloons’.
What angered me the most was that the subject we were denied, was being taught at the non-denominational school just a stone throw away. Being a teenager is a trying time for most but this taboo culture surrounding sex education is dangerous.
In 2014, HALF of Scotland's teenagers believed schools are failing to provide them with enough information on sex and relationships. The poll was of people aged 14 to 19 in Scotland by charity Zero Tolerance.
Education authorities have a responsibility to tell the truth to everyone, information should not be cherry picked according to what type of institution a person is part of. I want future generations to speak freely about all types of sex (heterosexual and LGBTQI+), without feeling that this is a taboo subject.
The play is based on some of my real-life experiences of Catholic education (specifically sexual education) in Scotland from my time at school between 2005- 2011. Set in the backdrop of a town which was twice voted ‘the worst in Britain’ in the Carbuncle Awards, it seeks to uncover the inequality in education and give a voice to young working class Scottish females who are seldom represented on stage.
I’m passionate about the ability that theatre has to give people a voice and open up conversations. So, let’s talk about sex! The more conversation we have the safer future generations will be.
Written and directed
by Catherine Expósito
9th-13th July at 6:30pm
Kings Head Theatre, 115 Upper St, Islington, N1 1QN
Part of Playmill Festival
‘Sex is bad. Dirty, filthy, ugly, yucky, slutty, wrong. Sex is wrong. You shouldn’t do it until you’re married, that’s what Ms McGee says’. Glasgow 2005. Catholic school girl Stacey is sick of being the odd one out. Mum says she’s ‘an immaculate conception...brought by the angels’. Her best friend Kelly has had loads of sex. Boys are mean, and now her dreams of escape and X Factor stardom have been shat on. ‘Immaculate Correction’ is a dark comic exploration about working class Scotland, religion and what happens when your only access to sex education is porn. Written and directed by Catherine Expósito, former Trainee Director and King's Head Theatre Junior Associate.