Two out of five parents tell their teenage
children nothing about sex, according to a survey of 1.0(X) made in the town of Urmston, near Manchester.
Their main problem, according to Dr. Peter Ferrer, is embarrassment. About one in four, he reckons, regards sex as something evil, marriage as a second-best vocation far inferior to the religious life.
So for the past year Dr. Ferrer, Urmston's assistant medical officer of health. and Mrs. Frances Hancock, of the Education Department, have toured 15 local schools to give parents advice.
Sex instruction, they feel, ought to be given in the family a.s part of a child's total character formation. Leaving it up to teachers is risky, since they tend to fight shy of introducing moral questions. "You can't teach sex like mathematics," says Dr. Ferrer.
But hundreds of families never bother. A majority of children pick up their information from their friends. More often than not it is garbled.
So to encourage parents to teach their children, Dr. Ferrer and Mrs. Hancock hold meetings in the schools. First the parents come for an evening to watch a film on reproduction and talk it over informally. Then they return for a second evening to see it again with their children.
When Dr. Ferrer and Mrs. Hancock questioned 1,000 parents from tett of the schools they visited, they discovered that out of the 400 who had originally found it impossible to tell their children about sea, all but two found it very much easier acter seeing the film together.
"It .gives them something to talk about," says Mrs. Hancock. "And by meeting other parents they sec they all have the same difficulties, so it isn't so hard to face them."
Dr. Ferrer, a Catholic who has been practising medicine for the past six years, is particularly anxious to help Catholic parents.
For too long, he feels, they have been victims of a "shalt-not" attitude, regarding sex as something nasty in be endured rather than something pleasant to be used in marriage wisely. The results: frigidity, fear, countless unhappy homes.
In his talks, he asks parents to take a constructive approach: "It is of more value to say, 'tell the truth' than to give a sharp injunction not to tell lies. In the same way, it is better to start by emphasising the value of sex in marriage than to begin by fear and talk of hell, vs), and the tragedies of illegitimacy."
Ile adds: "Thinking in this way can reveal surprising defects in one's outlook. It makes it possible to change the direction of one's whole life."