This story was first published on 17 February
A CATHOLIC YOUTH group which has been travelling around the country, giving talks on chastity to students, taped teens at one school together by the wrist in front of their classmates as a way of demonstrating what happens when a person has multiple sexual partners.
A student at the Dublin school told The Journal.ie that the group, Pure in Heart Ireland, spent two hours talking about how abstinence was “god’s way and how we should seek to live by this. ”
“We were told how ‘god loves sex’,” they said. “However it was implied that is only after marriage.”
This talk was given by a man and two women, all in their twenties. The student gave details of a role play game students were asked to take part in, which he said made the majority of them feel “uncomfortable”.
“Towards the end of the talk four girls and one guy were asked to ‘volunteer’ to come up to the front,”they said. “A piece of Sellotape was put around the wrists of one of the girls and the guy.”
The girl was in a sexual relationship with the guy. But they break up. This was demonstrated by one of the speakers ripping the Sellotape off their wrists, in what must have been somewhat painful. The process was repeated with the three other girls (and the same guy, with the same piece of Sellotape). This was supposed to demonstrate the effect of having sex before marriage. The Sellotape collects hair and is no longer useful.
On the topic of pornography, the student also said one of the speakers “casually equated serial killers with the watching of” it.
Pure in Heart, which has its Irish headquarters in Dublin, in the same building as the Iona Institute, describes itself as an ‘international Catholic movement of young adults, who through prayer and friendship, strive to learn, live and share the truth, beauty and meaning of human sexuality”.
On its Facebook page, the group mentions trips to schools all around the country and posts pictures and messages promoting chastity:
(Image: Pure in Heart Ireland/Facebook)
Promoting safe sex
Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Director of youth outreach service SpunOut.ie, Ian Power, said that while groups are entitled to advocate abstinence, “it is not an effective, nor is it a comprehensive way to promote safe sex among young people”.
It’s up to each individual – the choice to have sex or not and that needs to be at the forefront of sexual education. Also, having respect for your partner, that’s the message that needs to be gotten across and it’s much more empowering than saying ‘don’t do something’.
Power said there is a vital need in this country for standardised sex educations.
“No one is overseeing how often they’re doing it, what schools are delivering in full, what is in line with their ethos,” he said. “Some government oversight is needed on groups that go into schools delivering talks without parental knowledge or consent.”
Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre said her organisation’s talks in schools have an emphasis on exploring the area of consent and what it means.
“The idea is to get into schools to facilitate this conversation and rather than give a lecture we prefer to work with people in groups,” she said. “I think it’s terribly important that young people get appropriate input on what it means to have a healthy relationship.”
The student said that some classmates were open to the group’s ideas and agreed with what they were saying.
For many others, myself included, we were somewhat frustrated by the content of the presentation. If we had any questions to challenge what they were saying it was dismissed or glossed over. There was no real engagement on issues outside of their PowerPoint slide.
The Department of Education’s best practice guidelines cite research which has consistently shown that the “qualified classroom teacher is the best placed professional to work sensitively and consistently with students and that s/he can have a powerful impact on influencing students’ attitudes, values and behaviour in all aspects of health education”.
It was announced last month that reforms in the new Junior Cycle will include a course on relationships and sexuality as part of Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE), with the aim of making sex education more consistent.
Pure in Heart Ireland did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the talks it gives in schools.
Column: Let’s talk about sex (maybe)>