Zoella controversy highlights need for better sex ed

Louise Hickey

Zoe Sugg, better known as Zoella,  headlined British papers at the end of January for ‘reviewing sex toys to 16-year-olds’.  This is only reinforcing stigmas against women’s health and pleasure.

UK-based AQA Media Studies pulled the website from the syllabus as parents have been complaining of an article which discusses sex toys. 

 Zoe explains that she was not aware her website was on the syllabus, and that her main demographic is women between 25-35. “We want to talk about taboo topics to…help, inspire or make people feel less alone”.

She never meant to teach this information to 16-year-olds, as many papers had implied, but even if she did, is that really a big deal?

Although female pleasure is not taught in schools, 16-year-olds are not oblivious to sexual matters. They should be learning about women’s health and sexual pleasure. Maybe not to be examined on, but they should be taught that it is nothing to be ashamed of.

There is so much of a stigma around the idea of masturbation with women. So much that I am cringing at myself writing this, but as Zoe herself said “we all do it!”.

Speaking to some DCU students on this ‘scandal’ that has spread over the weekend, there is a huge demand for change. A lot of students see Zoe as a role model. 

“I feel that if people talked more about women’s health and pleasure the subject would become less taboo, and more people would then be open about it instead of shying away from it” student, Jade McNamee said. 

With the media’s reaction to ‘Zoella’ being dropped from the syllabus, the website is innocently being shamed for trying to break social barriers. 

There is a worldwide pandemic happening, yet this ‘scandal’ parents have been complaining about makes the front page of many newspapers. 

“Dropping this from the syllabus is an attempt to silence issues…people are dying, and they’re worried about female pleasures?”  Blessing Ogungbe said. 

It is unfortunate that in 2021, websites like this are the only way teenage girls can find out more about being a woman and exploring themselves. People’s views on sex and female pleasure are rooted in shame, which stems from schools.

“I’ve had a good few male partners and boys I’m friends with are disgusted by girls talking about sexual pleasure, and they’re horrified if you even mention sex toys. If it wasn’t for articles like the one on Zoella’s website I would have never learned anything about the whole topic” said Rachael Dunphy. She added that it is an issue which is never brought up at home.

Other students touched on the fact that girls must discreetly look for information, instead of learning about it openly, like they should. One student, Erin Murphy, told her experience of being in an all-girls school “My sex ed was awful, everyone just learnt what they wanted to online…It was very hush hush, staff weren’t allowed to teach it”.

It is time the education system evolved in both the UK and Ireland. Maybe the reaction to Zoella’s article highlights how it may be worthwhile touching on such topics within the curriculum.

Louise Hickey

Image credit: Zoella Instagram