He said the negative model, which focused on what parents don’t want young people to do or know, was prevalent in society and could hinder the healthy sexual development of young people.
“I want to get people to think about the positive side about what healthy sexual development actually should be,” Professor McKee said.
“We should be asking, ‘what do we have to go through as a child and adolescent to be a healthy, happy human being with a good attitude towards sex?’
“It’s about accepting that children are curious about their bodies and that is completely normal and healthy.”
Professor McKee will speak at a Relationships Australia event called ‘What is sexual wellbeing?’, chaired by broadcaster and writer Phillip Adams today (February 14) in Adelaide.
He said although it was taboo for parents to talk about issues such as masturbation with their children, Professor McKee said private, non-obsessive acts were normal.
“It’s perfectly normal and healthy and parents don’t have to worry about it,” he said.
“By being negative, that sends the message that it’s wrong for young people to think about sex and their body. That’s when it causes problems for adults.”
Professor McKee said a new book called Is this Normal? Understanding your Child’s Sexual Behaviour gave parents straightforward advice on how to understand and respond to children’s sexual behaviours.
The book, published by Family Planning Queensland and written by child sexual abuse prevention experts Holly Brennan and Judy Graham, includes a traffic lights framework that groups sexual behaviours according to healthy (green), concerning (orange) and harmful (red).
Professor McKee said a healthy approach to sexual development included freedom from unwanted activity, an understanding of consent and ethical conduct, education about biological aspects of sexual practice, relationship skills and understanding safe sexual practices.
He said the perception that children were overly sexualised was wrong.
“It is appalling the level of public discussion around child sexuality. All of the rhetoric about the sexualisation of children is damaging because it makes it very difficult for parents to talk openly about issues of sexuality with their children,” Professor McKee said.
“All of the surveys show parents should be the main source of information about sex and sexuality, but many parents think they’re doing a bad job.”
Professor McKee has received a Queensland Government National and International Research Alliances program grant to develop improved sexual health education strategies that can be delivered through entertainment producers.
He will contribute to a New South Wales government policy development workshop on “Positive Sexual Health” from April 26 to 27.
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