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Busy Bodies

Here's the problem with how consent is taught to young Irish teenagers

Answer: it’s not. And neither is being LGBTQ, STI’s, female sexual pleasure or contraception.

SO HOW IS consent in Irish schools taught? We took a look at ‘Busy Bodies’, the cartoon-filled Relationship and Sexual Education book for teachers which aims to be a

useful resource to help support both teachers and parents in providing information on puberty to children aged between 10 and 14.

HSE south HSE south

Whilst the book does give a robust general gist of what changes ‘busy’ bodies get up to during puberty, and covers what sex is under the guise of ‘making babies’, there are some gaps in the book that are problematic. Here’s what the booklet does not fully explain or mention: consent, homosexual relations, contraception, STIs, or female sexual pleasure.

Some pretty important things to know in adult relationships and for your sexual education, no?


The book’s mention of consent it limited to this:

It is not a good thing for people to have sex before they are grown up and ready for it. And for this reason, the law protects you from feeling any pressure about this, by making it illegal for anyone to have sex with a young person under 17. This means that you are not legally old enough to agree to (or consent to) having sex until you are at least 17.

That’s it. Consent is simply the age that you are legally old enough to have sex.

Source: Hse south

Surely, this is an easy topic to discuss? All children of school-going age know when they feel good or comfortable in a situation and when they don't. Teaching consent is simply explaining to children that during a sexual experience, you shouldn't do anything you don't feel 'good' or 'comfortable' with, and likewise you should make sure the person you're with is also feeling 'good' or 'comfortable'.

This limits consent to something that only happens when you're under 17, and with a person who is 'older'. In actuality, the issue of consent arises in every sexual experience and at every age, and the person could be the same age as you, or younger.

It's not that difficult!


The word 'excited' is mentioned twice in the booklet with regards to the changes in your body. But depending on your genitals, the puberty changes to be excited about are vastly different.

For boys...


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Yeah, no problem there. That's a sound way to explain erections as the biological reaction in your body to sexual feelings.

Cool, so they don't beat around the bush with boys, so they're probably going to mention next that a clitoris is made of erectile tissue (the same type as a penis) and explain that when girls are 'sexually excited' that their clitoris becomes enlarged (same as a penis). Except the difference is that luckily for girls their erection is mostly internal, so it's easier to hide because it won't bulge through their trouser.

Oh wait, no. There's no explanation of the clitoris except to say that it's a...

HSE south HSE south

Are you having a laugh?

A. Fleshy. Bump. Near. The. Urethra.

That's the only explanation for a boys and girls for what a clitoris is?


The only time 'bump' is applied in everyday conversations is to things like 'bump in the road' or the song 'five little monkeys' who jump on beds and bump their heads.  By dismissively describing the clitoris as a 'bump', the most important part of a women's body for pleasure except for her mind, makes the clitoris sounds like it's a completely unfortunate part of your body that will evolution will eventually get rid of.

Also, just casually mentioning its proximity to the urethra which is explained to be 'where urine (pee) comes out of your body'?

HSE south HSE south

Should testicles be described as 'dangly hairy sacks that lie near your anus?'

How are girls meant to know when to trust their bodies? How are they understand the biological explanation of how their bodies work when they're feeling sexually excited if it's omitted from a booklet about their bodies that might be the only sex talk they receive? Hell, how are they even meant to know that they are sexual creatures and that it's normal to get sexually excited?

Is there anything for girls to get 'excited' about during puberty?

Well according to 'Busy Bodies' - yes! For girls, they can get excited about....



You may be quite excited by the idea of getting your first period, because this is a sign that you are growing up and becoming a woman.

20th Century Fox Television 20th Century Fox Television


That's it. That's the only exciting thing about puberty for girls? That they're going to start getting back pain, abdominal cramping, headaches, muscle aches, breast tenderness, fatigue and hormonal changes that make you more sensitive and less able to put up with other people's sh*t?

THAT's the only thing girls can be excited about? But guys get to have sexual feelings that lead to excitement.

Paramount Pictures Paramount Pictures

Well, at the very least do we get to hear something good about sexual intercourse? Will consent be at least alluded to? Well we hear about some sort of feelings?

Of course not. In a heading of 'Making Babies' we are told that all that's needed for sex to take place is for a man's penis to be erect (which we already knows means that he is sexually excited) and then for him to simply put it into a ready and waiting woman.


That's it, folks. That's the depressing extent of sexual education in Ireland for young teenagers, which features zero talk of STI's or LGBTQ people. Bet you gals reading this can't wait for your next period so you can feel excited about life again.

However, don't be getting losing the run of yourselves because Father Vincent Twomey has some harsh truths about the only exciting thing about puberty for you in the Indo letters today: your menstruation is 'ritual impurity'.

Does anyone else feel like we need a revamp of what sex education is composed of?

*Edit to say*

1) This booklet is a far better explanation of the biological processes of puberty than most millennials and above got in school, and we applaud the frankness and open nature of the booklet.

2) This is not an attack on teachers, but on the content of the booklets.

3) Yes, there are other booklets that are used as resources but this particular booklets is the focus: it is inadequate because a) it doesn't fully explain consent as something other than the 'legal age of consent', implying that consent past the age of 17 is irrelevant and b) it equates the vagina with equal importance to the penis, when 80% of females cannot orgasm without clitoral stimulation. Is sex a practice for adults that is only for 'making babies' or is it about pleasure?

4) There is a hidden bias in this booklet that is sexist. Men can be sexual beings for pleasure, and sex happens when a man is actively sexually stimulated. Women are 'excited' to be fertile (get their periods), and to have sex, no physical change is apparently needed in their body.

5. We thank the teachers who are going above and beyond to teach a subject to young people. Again, this is not an attack on you, but on the content and subtle bias underlining the information.

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