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Malta’s Sex Education Is ‘Mediocre, Conservative, Boring And Shit’, People Say In New Survey

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Sex education in Malta is antiquated and in need of a serious update. Countless women and men all over the island issued a damning indictment on what was taught to them in schools, the few times it actually was, in a new Lovin Malta survey.

“Sex education in Malta is absent or inadequate leading people, especially young people, to seek information from inappropriate sources such as porn or quacks. If mentioned at all, sexual education is often based on the irrational repression of the Church leading to guilt, shame and dangerous and unhealthy practices,” said a gay man who first engaged in sexual activity in his 30s.

Lovin Malta received over 700 responses from men, women and non-binary people of all ages and walks of life on a survey about the state of sex on the island and this is the first part of a multi-article series shedding light on what people think about several related issues.

We’re doing this because the lack of priority of sexual health and understanding is a problem that has rippled into several aspects of daily life.

Be it the astronomical teenage pregnancy rates, the climbing numbers of STIs and the frequent heart-wrenching sexual assault stories – Malta’s abysmal sexual health policy has done a lot more harm than good.

Now, without further ado, first up on the Lovin Malta agenda is sexual education.

1. Without friends or the internet, people won’t have a sexual education

An overwhelming majority of respondents said that they received their sex education from friends and the internet, not from school – the institution of education. 

Meanwhile, others said things like “books”, “porn”, “personal experimentation” and “the call her daddy podcast”. 

One woman even revealed that the first time she learned about sex was through “sexual assault”.

Since sex is inevitable in the lives of most people, many are learning about it in one way or another – and more often than not this happens through self-exploration.

This can be very dangerous. When someone with no understanding is thrown into the sexual deep-end, their lack of knowledge makes them vulnerable for others to manipulate.

How can someone establish and enforce boundaries about something so intimate that they know nothing about?

In-depth sex education will not only equip people with the tools necessary to protect themselves, but it will remove the stigma surrounding several things, like periods.

Although young girls learn the details, boys are still kept in the dark about a process that affects almost every woman present in their lives. This keeps the subject a taboo – shaming girls for bleeding and embarrassing boys for encountering a woman on her period.

This then translates into future relationships in which women try to hide this monthly menstruation from their significant other which further worsens healthy communication between partners.

Back to the survey – only 49.9% of respondents selected school as the place they received sex-ed. 

And those that did, had very few positive things to say about Maltese sexual education.

2. Malta’s focus on religion makes sexual education ‘poor’ and ‘non-existent’

Hundreds called it “poor”, “non-existent”, “lacking” and “conservative” while others had deeper opinions, like “brodu”.

“Bad. Church schools teach nothing important about women’s sexual health and prevention. It’s a don’t do until marriage act, but we’ll talk about condoms for one lesson in religion class,” said a woman in her 20s. 

Poor and focused on religion. Shaming those who engage in sexual acts even if it wasn’t consensual.

“All I was told was that sperm creates babies (at all times!) In later years, however, when I decided to research more about sex, I discovered a whole new world. The misinformation on the island is buried deep and never questioned,” she continued.

“Sexual education is highly dependent on the type of school one attends – it’s abysmal in church schools, improving in state schools, and a hit-or-miss in independent schools,” said a man in his 20s.

This is obviously unfair. Far too many children that go to church schools are left at a huge disadvantage. They’re missing out on this essential education that not only teaches them about sex but teaches them about themselves.

They’re left to discover complex things like sexual and gender identity completely alone, in a world where blind experience can actually be very dangerous – especially when it comes to sex or having an unconventional sense of self.

Don’t get me wrong, private and government schools still lack in their sex-ed, but church schools indoctrinate their students with antique catholic imperatives that aren’t just lacking but are tools of fear-mongering.

They use what are essentially lies to scare teens from straying from the purity narrative that the church has been clinging on to since its inception.

3. People learn more about biology than sexual emotional intelligence

“I went to a private school and finished my formal schooling in 2008. It was completely heteronormative and made no mention of different forms of sex, sexuality and gender, other than the standard penis in vagina sex,” said one respondent. 

“I only learned about the biology of human reproduction. No more,” another revealed.

This almost mechanical understanding of sex was brought up a lot in this survey. Many of our respondents learned so much about the biological and heterosexual aspect of the act but nothing about the intimacy, the pleasure, the respect, the kinks, the communication… shall I go on?

“I believe it lacks connection with meaningfulness and the concept of love,” a man in his 20s explained.

“Very informative when it comes to all the things that can go wrong. Nothing was taught in terms of pleasure though,” a teenage girl said.

From a male perspective, it gives you the basics regarding what sex is, what kinds of protection there are, a brief description on how to use it, and that’s it.”

When teachers are embarrassed to speak to their students about the complexities and intricacies about sex they create a culture of shame that’s manifested in a lack of communication between sexual partners – leading to less pleasure, more unhappiness and loads of frustration.

“In detail information about sexual identity and questions regarding intercourse were not addressed,” said a bisexual woman in her 20s.

In case you haven’t yet gotten the gist, when there is sexual education, it’s extremely clinical and only explores a fraction of what sex really is.

4. One thing that’s completely ignored is pleasure

Sexual pleasure is consistently ignored. So many people have sex unbeknownst to the world of real, leg-shaking pleasure.

They don’t know how to help their partner/s feel good or how to help themselves enjoy the experience to the max. This is especially crucial for girls and women, who find it a lot more difficult to climax than men.

This problem is not just a bedroom one, lack of sexual intimacy seeps into the workings of a relationship and can often become a cause for separation. 

When sex isn’t fun, people don’t have it. When people don’t have sex, they lose the physical and romantic bond that is crucial for many (not all) relationships and tensions subsequently rise.

“Compatibility issues in the bedroom can lead to marital problems and eventual divorce,” said the law offices of Todd K. Mohink. 

Alternatively, learning sex through porn creates unattainably high standards which make people feel pressured to perform a certain unrealistic way. This is why so many men and women end up having feelings of inadequacy when it comes to having sex.

And from here, the same domino effect ensues.

5. Consent, respect and diversity!!!

Similarly, consent and respect are detrimentally neglected by the education system. Children shouldn’t figure out that consent is a thing, it should be ingrained in them a lot more than the ‘Holy Mary’ is.

Anyway, if the whole point of teaching children religion is so that they understand catholic values like respect, then maybe instead of making them recite a prayer (that they don’t even understand) every single morning, schools should engage in open dialogues that teach children how to respect one another.

Help heteronormative children understand the kaleidoscope of unconventional genders, orientations and kinks so that they can approach people that they don’t relate to with acceptance and respect.

This will in turn make these ‘unconventional’ kids feel at ease with being themselves.

I mean, imagine being a 13 year old child who’s confused about their sexual identity and doesn’t have a safe space to explore and understand themselves – there’s so much unnecessary confusion and anxiety in this situation that leads to insecurity, self-harm and sometimes, suicide.

If you don’t believe this, look at the numbers*. Malta has disappointingly high rates of sexual assault, harassment and queer discrimination that come from ignorance, or in other words, a lack of education.

Some adults nowadays struggle to understand the err’s in things like groping, catcalling and having sex with a person who’s hardly conscious.

Similarly, victims sometimes can’t even recognise when they’ve been violated – in fact, 85% of sexual assault victims are reluctant to report the crime.

6. Parents need to talk to their kids about sex

“Terrible, there needs to be more discussion in schools and in general from the parent,” said one answer.

According to our respondents, their parents only fed into this ‘if we don’t talk about it, then it doesn’t happen’ mentality with just 15.1% saying that they learned about sex from their guardians.

News flash parents, your kids are most likely fucking.

In fact, almost 30% of our respondents first engaged in sexual activity when they were under the age of 16, while over 50% were between 16 to 20-years-old.

And since you too suffered Malta’s scare-mongering sexual education system, you should know that you need to do your part in teaching your children about sex and intimacy, otherwise, they will also become victims of misinformation.

Teach them to recognise when they’re being violated, groomed or assaulted; show them how to respect people that they’re attracted to; guide them when it comes to creating and maintaining their boundaries – please don’t allow the school system that failed us all to fail your children too.

Don’t rely on a bunch of strangers to make your kids feel safe in their skin, create that place and that conversation for them. Remind them that although their ‘friends’ at school don’t accept or understand them, you do.

Nurture your children’s mental health by being a pillar of communication and love – often, kids who are different to the status quo fear that being honest about themselves will cause everyone that they love to abandon them. So, they force themselves to suppress the things that make them happy and this can completely destroy a person’s spirit.

7. Is it really all that bad?

In case you haven’t caught on, sex education in Malta is quite a mess. However, there were some respondents who admitted that it was getting better.

“It’s quite good,” said one person.

“Now it’s getting better,” said another.

“Getting better but it’s still quite bad,” a teenage girl agreed.

Unfortunately, the negative responses disproportionately outweighed the positive ones. With the majority blaming the ultra-catholic inspiration that “overshadows” sex education.

And well, the proof is in the pudding*.

First off, Malta forms one of the top ten developed countries with the highest STD rates. It is also the country with the highest teen pregnancy rates in Southern Europe.

Meanwhile, earlier this year, the GU clinic warned that there has been a worrying rise in STIs in Malta among men who reported to have attended group sex parties.

Preventable STDs are also on the increase, with five people contracting HIV every month and nearly 800 people found with HPV in 2019.

While the island’s legal framework regarding the protection of LGBTQIA+ has made major strides in the past decade, a survey by MGRM found that half of LGBTQIA+ respondents felt unsafe in Paceville, with some saying they had been harassed or not let into clubs due to their sexuality.

In fact, LGBTI+ Gozo, the only queer organisation on the island (of Gozo), said that Malta still has a long way to go to end violence against the queer community following an attack that left one man with injuries to the face and eyes in Sliema.

Meanwhile, only around 30 people a year have been charged with rape in Malta since 2017 because 85% of instances of this crime go unreported.

Here are some personal accounts of people who have been sexually assaulted in Malta.

Although this survey may not be a scientific study, it is one that speaks for 769 people living on the island – therefore, it’s indicative of something quite substantial.

Tune in for the next article where we’ll see how this education is failing us, has failed us and will fail us in the long run.

What do you think about sex education in Malta?

READ NEXT: Prison To Set Up Family Room For Inmates To Spend Time With Their Young Children

Ana’s a university student who loves a heated debate, she’s very passionate about humanitarian issues and justice. In her free time you’ll probably catch her binge watching way too many TV shows or thinking about her next meal.

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