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Men and boys’ wellbeing must be a central part of sex and relationships education, urges Men and Boys Coalition

For many years now, political and media debates on PSHE/SRE have been heavily concentrated upon the circumstances and needs of girls and young women, most commonly the need to reduce and eliminate sexual violence and sexual harassment of girls by their male peers.

The Men and Boys Coalition entirely share such concerns and add our voices to those calling for action on these issues. However, in March 2016 the UN highlighted two intertwined and complementary objectives regarding boys’ PSHE/SRE education: (1) the need to engage adolescent boys and young men in order to achieve gender equality, and (2) the importance of addressing the gender-specific health and social development needs of adolescent boys and young men themselves.

The Coalition notes with concern that while the former has received significant media and political attention, the latter has been very largely absent from debate, discussion and policy development.

As a result the Coalition has published a briefing document in order to outline issues with existing SRE provision in the UK from a male gender perspective and to provide recommendations for future actions.

These include:

The recommendation for an immediate response from the academic community in producing research exploring the specific needs, wishes, concerns, and vulnerabilities of boys and young men in relation to SRE — supported by funding bodies, including statutory providers and governmental departments.

The recommendation that training of specialist PSHE and SRE practitioners must highlight the specific needs of boys in this area; recognising that boys may feel more uncomfortable talking to certain adult figures (including existing teachers) about sex and relationships and may typically, if not always, respond to awkward or embarrassing classroom content differently to girls.

The recommendation that, when providing SRE, male-specific issues in health, mental health and sexual health are not ignored, but are explored in an engaging and meaningful way with young boys.

The strong recommendation that greater efforts to involve boys and young men in positive and open discussion about the important and valued role boys can play in relationships, both sexual and romantic.

The briefing document, which has been developed in close collaboration with Coalition members who are the leading UK charities and academics working on these issues, is available in full here: mbc-sre-briefing-document