Why is it that most of us spend longer teaching our kids how to drive a car than we do talking to them about sex?
This weekend at the Sex and Consciousness Conference, young people get a chance to give voice to the issues around sexuality and intimacy. Convened by educator and author Amrita Hobbs, Youthspeak is the genesis of ideas that came out of the original event held in Woodford a few years ago.
According to Amrita, the aim of Youthspeak is to ‘give young people a voice so that they can hear from each other and sometimes speak the unspeakable themselves in public in a really safe place’.
The panel comprises six young people between 21 and 24 who hail from Byron, Melbourne and the Gold Coast. They have been hand-chosen by Amrita because ‘I know they are articulate, they have integrity and they are able to be authentic. They are walking their talk as best we all can and they all have a beautiful rapport with each other.’
‘Each of the young people has their own particular theme,’ says Amrita.
‘One is how young people feel let down by adults because we don’t prepare them and educate them in ways that are always are helpful; we may not be good role models for them. Another one is how can we understand gender differences so we can get on better; another is about romance versus lust. They have a few minutes to speak and then we open it to the floor. The emphasis for Youthspeak is on the interaction rather than the panel; they open the floor for young people to have the conversations.’
Amrita believes the power in the forum is allowing young people to set their own agenda without answering to any specific adult-assigned topics on issues or values.
She believes the young people are prepared to go in deep and, in a world where sexual messages are about pornography and over-sexualisation, many young people crave something more meaningful.
‘When we were in Woodford, this boy said, “I want to know how to worship a woman”. He was just 14 years old!’
As an educator Amrita believes we have a lot to learn from native cultures that include initiations for their young people to mark the passage into adulthood.
‘My visioning is that we become more of an initiation culture, where we have a process for the men and the women. Our culture doesn’t offer anything like that; sex education is biological, not spiritual or physical and they miss out on all the juicy bits. My personal work is to move towards more of that in our community and our culture.’
This year Amrita will be offering a one-year program through Youthspeak called ‘Sex – What They Don’t Teach You at School’.
She is engaging local teachers and educators who can talk about subjects that may not be addressed in more conventional programs, like masculinity, femininity, how to connect intimately through communication. It will be presented through a series of one-day workshops.
Amrita recalled the story of a young man who had embarked on his sexual odyssey with flair.
‘I met one young man who was a Steiner kid in England; he kept asking his dad for money, and his dad asked what for, and he’d keep saying it was for chocolate. His dad asked what he was doing with the chocolate. He said, ‘we are painting each other’s body and licking it off!’ They weren’t having sex! It took them a long time to get around to having sex because they were enjoying the chocolate so much.’
Young people are invited to attend the free Youthspeak forum on Saturday at the Byron Bay Community Centre at 1.30pm. The target group is 14–24-year-olds. Adults are also invited but asked to keep in mind that this is a forum for youth and they will be seated behind the young people.
Image: Right of passage.