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Dutch masters #3

If sexual health were an Olympic sport, the Netherlands would stand a good chance of taking the gold. Our sexuality education starting at an early age delivers world records, such as a low number of STDs and teenage pregnancies. Other countries are eager to copy this and are increasingly inspired by the Dutch approach. We loudly applaud this. Because we want the whole world to win.

Stars, stripes and sex

The Dutch education for young children about physical development, love and relationships regularly arouses the interest of foreign media. Even America is interested, a country that currently would not even qualify for the 100 metres sexual well-being. The big news channels PBS Newshour and Fox point their lens at our approach. This provokes a flood of reactions, some deeply shocked, some wildly enthusiastic. The first seeds have been planted.

Sexologist Goedele Liekens, a disciple of the Rutgers school, plants whole trees rather than seeds. She earns shock and admiration in prudish Great Britain by applying the Dutch directness to sexuality education for a group of young British people on TV. Her message: openness about sex is needed in order to beat porn as a guideline for sexual behaviour. The British press has been won over already.

Those who are not convinced yet should watch our new film “Dutch Lessons in Love”. It shows the background to our unambiguous approach to sexuality and how this helps to prepare children and young people for a healthy and happy sexual life later on in their lives.

Going forward

The Netherlands may well be an example to other countries, but does it offer children enough sexuality education itself? Research by us in partnership with the Dutch TV news bulletin for children provides the answer.

Of the Dutch children who participate in the survey of the children’s TV news bulletin, 25 per cent say they have been taught at school about standing up for their personal boundaries regarding sex.


Made in Holland, mixed in Burundi

We export the Dutch approach to other countries, but not by copying and pasting. Each country has its own needs and cultural values. That’s why we tailor our international education programme The World Starts With Me to the local circumstances in each country. The goal always remains the same: young people should be able to make well-considered choices for their sexual health.

In the programme, young people receive sexuality education in school or elsewhere from a virtual peer on a computer or through photo stories on paper. All the important topics are addressed, such as physical development, contraception and the equality of men and women. Ghana joins the eleven other African countries that use the programme. There are also special versions now for deaf and blind people, prisoners, and young people who are born with HIV.

Kenyan girls studying a lesson of The World Starts With Me at a computer (credits: Jonathan Torgovik)

From selfies to “ussies”

The sexuality education that we advocate strives for loving and equal relationships. However, the current internet culture of selfies and porn threatens to objectify people, reducing ourselves and others to consumer goods. In the Johannes Rutgers Lecture 2015, psychology professor Liesbeth Woertman makes the case for meaningful sex. According to her, this is an intimate journey of discovery in which you pay attention to each other. So no more selfies, but “ussies” without the camera.

“Do you know the term skin hunger? The hunger for touch. Touch is at the basis of who were are.’’

Liesbeth Woertman (professor clinical psychology)
Moderator Tarik Yousif and keynote speaker Liesbeth Woertman at the Johannes Rutgers Lecture (credits: Tom Roelofs)

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