Our Voice: Healthy Relationships – Status

Around this time last year Me+You=4eva was performed to years 7 & 8 at Oasis Academy John Williams as part of their week long focus on healthy relationships. Later this month we will be returning with a show aimed at older students, targeting issues and themes that many of them may or are facing as they begin to experience relationships.

It’s easy to forget sometimes how bewildering, overwhelming, dramatic and intimidating your first relationships can be. These new experiences, coinciding with a hormone overload and an often fragile sense of self can leave even the most confident teens unsure of what to expect, what is expected of them and what is right.

I don’t believe in telling young people to wait until they’re older or banning relationships in an attempt to protect them. Lets be honest, many young people feel invincible and mature beyond their years, (when I was 14 I thought I knew all there was to know about life and love- its only now that I look back in hindsight and realise how naïve I really was). By condemning or banning relationships we also run the risk of discouraging young people form speaking out if they find themselves in uncomfortable situations or need advice. Any secondary school is rife with couples, or complex inter peer relationships; partaking these relationships is a natural part of growing up, and young people aren’t about to stop exploring them.

That’s why it’s so important that we create a platform for these young people to enable them to determine what they are ready for, what conditions are important to them and give them the confidence to stand firm and confident in their decisions.

When I look back at myself in high school, I was relatively misinformed as I began forming an interest in boys; coming from an all girl’s school I didn’t have much contact with them on a day to day basis. I developed relatively quickly, and my double D’s seemed to be enough to convince others that I was the sort of girl who was up a bit of fun. As far as sex education went, we had the age old ‘contraception on a banana’ lessons- but never were we encouraged to explore how emotionally ready we were to enter into physical relationships- only that it was (adopt stern teacher voice here) ILLEGAL to do so before we reached 16. As anyone who has ever been a teenager will understand, this approach didn’t do much but increase the hype and intrigue around the matter, effectively increasing our interest and girlish hysteria towards it.

So it may not come as much of a surprise that, being surrounded by hundreds of other teenage girls, we took it upon ourselves to decide exactly what was expected of us from the opposite sex; what was ok to do, what made you trashy and what significantly raised your social status. I used to spend double science on a Wednesday afternoon gossiping with the girls on my table about who had kissed who at the youth wing, how far someone had gone with her boyfriend or any ‘romantic’ endeavours we’d had in the past week. In fact, upon glancing back at my 14 year old self I realised that the majority of sexual pressure I felt at that age didn’t come from boys, it came from the girls I knew would want the gossip or from what I thought I should be doing and how far I thought I should be going.

As a result, I definitely delved into physical relationships before I really wanted to, it wasn’t that I was forced into them, I just didn’t know how to say ‘no’.

Essentially every young person is different, and will be ready for intimate relationships at different times. They need to know that it is ok to wait longer than their friends, that it is ok to say no and that it is ok to prioritise your own feelings in terms of what you are willing to do. I have great faith that this show will encourage just this, and feel incredibly proud to be part of such a crucial project.

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Sarah Fullagar

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