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Has the time come for the Dutch Approach?

British people were shocked about the statements and poor knowledge that these youngsters showed in the documentary 'Sex in class'. has the time come for the Dutch Approach?

“Men should ejaculate right into the woman’s face.” That’s what all boys – the good guys included – told Goedele Liekens in the British TV-programme Sex in Class. This Flemish sexologist has started sex education lessons to 16 and 17 year olds at a Comprehensive (Secondary school) in Great Britain. After a bit of probing some boys admitted that it would also be okay to ejaculate on their partner’s breasts. The girls in the same form were as ignorant and did not have the slightest idea where the clitoris was.

The British people were totally shocked about the statements and poor knowledge that these youngsters showed in the documentary. Sex in Class has proven that young people need to counterbalance what they ‘learn’ from porn. They need to learn about their body and how it works, boys and girls should learn to share views and ideas, and girls in particular need to learn how to stand up for themselves. However, young people in Great Britain do not get any sex education, since their parents and teachers are too frightened and embarrassed. The same also goes for countries such as America and Australia. Therefore, it is with interest but also with some scepticism that they all have directed their attention to the Dutch Approach, that Goedele Liekens learnt at Rutgers, Expert Centre on Sexuality in the Netherlands. Should sex education to young people be that explicit? Aren’t they getting the wrong ideas just because of that?

The Dutch have a very open attitude towards sexuality. This approach towards young people and sexuality is pragmatic: they accept that all young people have sexual feelings, just like everyone else. Young people will have sex anyway, so we’d better give them sex education. Then they will acquire know-how and skills to make well informed choices and consequently they will start having sex only when they feel they are ready for it. Therefore, sex education has been included as a statutory subject in the attainment goals of primary as well as secondary schools.

Dutch young people are well informed about contraceptives and STDs and generally they protect themselves well. The Netherlands has one of the lowest teenage pregnancy rates in the world. But sex ed is more than teaching how babies are made and how to prevent an STD. At Rutgers we call it relationships and sexual health education. How to have good relationships, to know one’s wishes and boundaries and respect each other is at least as important as technical knowledge. We not only discuss the risks, but also tell them how sex can be fun. To prevent young people getting the wrong ideas about sex, porn should also be discussed. Boys must learn that ejaculating into a girl’s face is not normal, and girls must learn how to express what they want.

Rutgers together with partner organisations, has created an open attitude towards sexuality and offers teaching programmes and educational materials. Teachers, parents and care professionals gratefully use these, since many Dutch people still find it difficult to talk about sex. By starting early, at lower junior school, we make them familiar with sexuality, teach them what behaviour is acceptable and empower them. Sometimes, we have to persuade teachers and overcome parents’ reluctance. But when they realize that we thus empower children and help them by teaching relationships and sexual heath education, they become very positive.

Rutgers has been teaching the Dutch Approach in foreign countries, in particular in Asia and Africa. We train NGOs and teachers to discuss sexuality and we develop teaching materials together, adapted to the local situation and culture. Recently, Eastern and South European countries have approached us with a request to assist them in teaching sex education. Also, a county in the Midlands in Great Britain has introduced our “Week of Spring Fever” at primary schools. They use our teaching package Relationships and Sexual Health Education, that they had had translated to that purpose.

We are glad that the Dutch Approach has raised so much interest. The time may indeed be there for a Dutch Approach.


Dianda Veldman
Managing Director Rutgers



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