The systematic sexual exploitation of 1400 children in Rotherham between the years 1997 and 2013, as well as widespread child abuse in other English towns, has led to an independent inquiry and several serious case reviews. These have been analyzed by Norman Wells, the director of the UK organization Family Education Trust, in his 2017 book Unprotected: How the normalization of underage sex is exposing children and young people to the risk of sexual exploitation.
The neutralizing sex education received at school undermines young people’s ability to comprehend the deep moral implications of sexual behavior. It makes them insensitive to moral distinctions by conveying the impression that there are no absolute sexual norms: all forms of sexual behavior based on mutual consent are regarded as normal and acceptable. Thus, neutralizing sex education deprives young people of the capacity to distinguish between genuine love and exploitative sexuality…
According to Wells,
“‘Comprehensive sex and relationship education’ has created in young people the expectation that they will have a series of casual sexual relationships. Within this culture, sexual exploitation has been allowed to go undetected and vulnerable young people have been deprived of protection.”
In the foreword to Wells’s book, Nottingham University Business School professor David Paton concludes:
“A clear picture emerges of a culture in which underage sexual activity has come to be viewed as a normal part of growing up and seen as relatively harmless as long as it is consensual. Combined with official policies to encourage the confidential provision of contraception to minors, it becomes clear that current approaches aimed at improving teenage sexual health have frequently facilitated and perpetuated the sexual abuse of vulnerable young people.”
Undermining young people’s natural awareness that sexuality is personal, individual, and intimate can have negative effects…Instead of becoming more alive, they become alienated from themselves.
By reducing sexuality to a biological instinct, amoral sex education produces people who are guided by what is subjectively satisfying and controlled by their drives, appetites, and desires, rather than by what is intrinsically valuable. It fails to help young people to achieve moral transcendence and develop as persons guided by value-response. A biologically reductive sex education not only fails to develop young people’s capacity for the transcendence implicit in a value-responding attitude, it also fails to provide the preconditions for the development of their authentic subjectivity. Instead of becoming more alive, they become alienated from themselves.