More outrage over sex ed for youngsters: The Hormone Factory

have i made a baby cartoon. Two paths, in one the couple use contraception, in the other they don't

Ostrich parents in Queensland are said to be up in arms today about a sex education website aimed at Grade 7 students.

The site, (warning:website sound), contains a selection of pubertal anatomy and physiology, basic sex information, talk about body image and bullying, information on children’s rights, and info on protective behaviours both on and off line.

The Australian reports:

Primary school students are being told abortion can be “a relief” and hormones make you “feel sexy” on a website endorsed by Education Queensland.

Outraged parent groups are demanding the State Government immediately withdraw its endorsement, warning the website is inappropriate and even dangerous for pre-teens. But educators argue it is a valuable, fun tool that helps children entering their teens learn about their bodies.

The controversial site,, has been approved as a student resource for Queensland Year 7 classes.

Set up by La Trobe University, it uses cartoons to tell 10 to 12-year-olds why certain hormones give them “sexy thoughts” and start making them “interested in sex”. It asks students if they think “a six-inch penis is normal” and if they believe “13 is too young to have a baby”. Students are told it can be a relief if a woman has a termination.

I think the Hormone Factory site is poorly designed, inaccessible, predominantly heteronormative, and perhaps a bit simplistic in places for its target audience. However, the information in it is mostly solid, and respectful of the variety of opinions and experiences around sex.

The site tells children that masturbation is normal, that sex should be their decision, that they should wait until they’re old enough and mature enough to handle the consequences, that adults should never behave sexually with them, that porn is not a good source of sex ed.

[Because the site is so difficult to use, I’ve appended a sampling of the information they present.]

Note that where the newspaper talks about the site saying that abortion can be “a relief”, what they actually said was “Having a termination is a hard decision to make, and can be very sad. It can also be a relief.” The site also includes controversial statements like “The only sure way of not making a baby is to not have sexual intercourse.”

Oh noes! Giving children accurate, factual information! They must be STOPPED!

*mild trigger warning now applies, non graphic child sexual abuse report*

Also in today’s news, sex offender Neil Havens Rodreick II has been sentenced to more than seventy years in prison after posing as a 12 year old to enrol in schools.

The Telegraph reports:

Rodreick attended schools in Arizona starting in 2005. Authorities said he shaved and wore makeup to help him appear younger, convincing teachers, students and administrators that he was a boy named Casey.

He was caught in January 2007 after spending a day in the seventh grade when school officials became suspicious because his birth certificate and other documents looked forged. They had initially thought they might be dealing with a child who had been abducted.

Authorities didn’t find any victims of sexual abuse at the schools Rodreick attended, but they found an extensive collection of child pornography at his home. […] The assault charge involved an allegation that he grabbed a girl’s buttocks at a school in Prescott Valley with the intent to injure, insult or provoke.

Rodreick was arrested with Brian Nellis, 36, who was posing as his cousin, and two older men posing as their uncle and grandfather.

So tell me again why we shouldn’t be educating children about their bodies, their rights, their self-esteem, and creepy people?

Howard Sattler characterises the Hormone Factory site as an “assault on childhood” in his Mad As Hell column, When sex-ed goes all the way.

Sattler’s a prat in every way, of course. The rest of the column goes on to also call a child care centre’s decision to stop providing licensed toys and costumes such as Barbie and The Wiggles as an “assault on childhood”. Where would we be without such crusading princes?

I tell you this, Sattler: If our sex ed hasn’t “gone all the way” by the time our kids are 12, they’ll get their first taste of sex ed either from people like Neil Havens Rodreick, or at the GP when that positive pregnancy test comes back.


A sampling from The Hormone Factory website:

Research in Australia says that about half of all 18 year olds have had sex. But more 18 year olds have not had sex. Some people never ever have sex, and lots of people do by the time they are in their 20’s. And no-one ever, ever HAS to have sex. It is their own choice.

No-one’s sex bits look just the same. We have different shaped ears and noses, or skin colour, and sex bits can look different too.

Wet dreams usually start at puberty, and happen when a boy is asleep. A boy might have a sexy dream and when he wakes up his pyjamas or sheets could be wet or sticky from semen.
This is normal.
It might happen once or twice in a lifetime, or three times a week.
This is normal too.

When a girl has her period the egg and lining are trickling out of the uterus through the vagina and onto her underpants.

She might feel nothing, or she might feel wet and like bubbles are coming out of her vagina. Some girls get backaches or tummy aches when they get their periods, and can feel pretty terrible. It can help to put a hot water bottle on your belly, or have a hot bath. Going for a walk might help, and sometimes you should go to the chemist and ask for some paracetomol.

It is against the law in Australia and most countries for anyone under 16 to have sex. That’s because it is a very important decision in your life, and it’s important you feel safe and that is a nice thing to do. If you feel scared or forced, it is not right to have sex. If you are under 16 the person having sex with you is doing the wrong thing and you should TELL someone you trust. Also, sex can make babies, so a person needs to be old enough deal with that.

Having sex can feel great and loving, or boring, or uncomfortable. When a person feels ready, safe, happy, and old enough, it is more likely to feel great. The reason for this is to try and protect kids from getting pregnant, or catching a sex infection, and to stop children being forced to have sex. Having sex should be a good, happy and sexy feeling. It should not be scary, or a person should not have sex because they think they should do it. It is important both people want to have sex.

You told us you are 11 and asked us if it’s wrong to look at naked ladies showing breasts and vaginas. These kinds of pictures are called pornography. It is normal for you to be interested in this stuff at this age. (It is also normal not to be interested yet). But, pictures of naked people on the Internet is not a good way for you to find out about sex when you are this age. Usually these photos show sex and women in a pretty yucky way that makes women seem like they enjoy being treated badly, and it doesn’t show sex as a loving kind of thing, just a thing that is about body parts. It is against the law for an adult to show you pornography. if this is happening you should tell and adult you trust, as its very creepy for someone to show a kid this stuff.

Adults should never touch a child in a sexual way, have sex with a child, or show them pornography. It is against the law. Adults know it is wrong so they might tell the child to keep it a secret. Sometimes it is a person the child knows & loves, a bigger kid or an adult. If it happens to you do not keep it a secret!! The adult has done the wrong thing, not you!! If someone does something or says something and you feel worried, or scared, or confused then its good to walk away, if you can, and later on TELL SOMEONE you trust. It is good to make a list of 5 adults you would go to if you needed help, were worried, or felt unsafe. Pick people who you think will act in an OK way and who will listen to you. Choose 5 people in case you cannot find the first person on your list, or if they do not believe you, you can go to another adult on the list.

If someone does something or says something and you feel worried, or scared, or confused ….
You have a right to say NO !

GO – get away as soon as you can !

TELL – tell someone that you trust !

It can be hard to say NO to an adult, especially if they are angry and scary. It can also be hard to GO.

But, you can always TELL, later.

It is OK and healthy for girls and boys to masturbate. Of course, it is a private thing, something to do when they are on their own and in a private place.

Also, a man’s semen (The stuff that spurts out of the penis when a male ejaculates), and a woman’s vaginal fluids (The wet stuff inside the vagina) can carry infections. Condoms catch the semen and stop vaginal fluids from touching the penis. Condoms also help people to not make babies.

Sex means different things to different people. People have different beliefs about when sex is ‘right’ for them. Some people want to be in love and know that they are loved back before they have sex, so that is good to wait for. Some people wait till they are married to have sex, and that’s an important decision that matters to them. Some people have sex because they like having sex and don’t need to be in love.

Sometimes a woman and man want to have sexual intercourse but don’t want a baby. The only sure way of not making a baby is to not have sexual intercourse. If a man and woman don’t want a baby they can use contraception, like condoms or the Pill. Sometimes people get pregnant and don’t want a baby. They might see a doctor about a termination.

Sometimes people find they are pregnant and do not want to have a baby. They might decide to go to a doctor and have an operation to end the pregnancy. This is called a termination, or an abortion. Having a termination is a hard decision to make, and can be very sad. It can also be a relief. If a woman has a termination she can still have a baby at another time. In some countries it is a woman’s right to decide to have a termination. It is against the law in some countries to have a termination.

Adoption can happen when a baby or child cannot be cared for by the mother who gave birth to them. The baby or child is taken into a new family to grow up with them. Legal papers are signed to say that the child now is a part of the new family.

There are some different ways to make a baby and different ways to make a family. Mum and dad and kids; grandma and grandchild; mums on their own with kids; dads on their own with kids; lesbian parents; and gay parents.

Categories: education, gender & feminism, health, relationships, violence

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20 replies

  1. Scary to see what kind of innocuous information is still capable of scaring certain parents.

  2. Good lord that site’s ugly.
    I’m quite amazed that someone’s found a way to make factual depictions of sex into something so eye-wateringly unpleasant.

  3. Any parent who objects to that site might find themselves a grandparent much sooner than they anticipated. I know by the time I was in year 12, there were girls in year 7 who were sexually active. There were probably girls in my year 7 as well, who just kept very quiet. I think yr 7 is a good time to start talking about the nitty gritty of sex ed. My son was told in kindergarten that his ‘privates’ were his own and no one should touch them except him (or maybe a doctor if mum or dad are there). Unfortunately he came home with the idea that this meant that privates were ‘dirty’ and shouldn’t be seen which was news to his little sister who loves running around nudie. She thought it was hilarious to make him yell ‘no, put it away, I don’t want to see your bottom’. We have now established that privates are your own, but walking around nudie, if you want to, is not dirty.

  4. Good lord, did they let a Year 7 kid DESIGN that site? It’s horrible!
    I was year-seven-aged when I had my naivety about sex rather forcefully removed from me.
    hexy’s last blog post..Viva la révolution de fourmi!

  5. I think yr 7 is a good time to start talking about the nitty gritty of sex ed.
    Yes… ‘though I’ve started with my year 5 daughter (aged 10, for non-Aussies) – started last year, in fact. And I’ve been slow on details so far. I try very hard to give her enough information, but not to overload her, so that she has time to process it. And I always end wth, come and ask me about anything you like.
    Last week she asked me to explain rape. That was a tough one.
    Deborah’s last blog post..Adventures in aetheist parenting

  6. Mm – by the age of five I’d already started to explain the notions (though not the detailed ins and outs) of infertility, adoption, gay parenting, contraception, and reproductive choice – in response to questions from the Lad. We’ve talked about the anatomy/physiology of sex, pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. And we’ve talked quite a bit about protective behaviours, the right to feel safe, who and how to tell, the fact that it’s not just “stranger danger”, the difference between surprises and secrets, that sort of thing.

  7. The parents objecting to this seem to be completely ignorant of the fact that kids talk to each other about sex – denying them sex education won’t keep them ‘innocent’. But it might prevent them getting things completely wrong.
    (For several years I believed that women had to go to hospital once a month for their periods.)
    Kirstente’s last blog post..On normalcy fetishism.

  8. The site comments on were at least reassuring, last I checked (mid yesterday). Just about all of them were making similar points to you (“ignorance isn’t innocence, just dangerous”; “hot dang, I’ll be examining this site with my kids ASAP”, “fundies need to STFU” etc*). Given that BTimes isn’t exactly a hotbed of liberal thought (CityKat, ewwwwwww), my manufactured controversy-sense is tingling. Which really gives me the irrits; its not like there isn’t real news out there being consistently ignored by the crew at fairfax.
    I’m chuffed that the website exists, but yet again I feel let down that state-approved educational resources are so… crappy. We needed a local and tween-appropriate alternative to stuff like scarleteen. Is it too much to ask that it won’t actually break the interwebs with its crap design?
    *also, “hurf durf they didn’t convert inches to centimeters properly”, which did make me laugh.

  9. The parents objecting to this seem to be completely ignorant of the fact that kids talk to each other about sex – denying them sex education won’t keep them ‘innocent’.
    Oh, yes. As “That Weird Bookish Kid”, I was answering a lot of questions posed by girls who otherwise ostracised me by Year 5 or 6.
    hexy’s last blog post..Word usage that annoys/amuses me… with SCIENCE!

  10. Oh for crying out loud the hysteria regarding sex education is ridiculous. Why can people not realize that leaving children in ignorance leads to things like unplanned pregnancy and the spread of STD’s. I would think fear of the aforementioned would be enough for people to get over the desire to deny the sexual side of our nature. I have gone over this information with my 8 year old and nothing on this site would be new to him. I would much rather him be informed than end up an early grandmother or finding out that he has AIDS. Sexuality is part of life and we just need to get over the desire to moralize it.
    Renee’s last blog post..Mad World: Adam Lambert

  11. “sex bits”?

  12. Just posted this comment on Sattler’s thread – probably won’t get past moderation. My comments on the Tele rarely do.
    Whatever your views are on abortion and sex education, it is clear that the site is geared to trigger its audience’s interest in the subject.

    Well, der. Kids of ten and up (sometimes even younger) are pretty curious about sex, and it’s this kind of material which tries to give out accurate information to counteract the Chinese Whispers and furphies that they will encounter in the schoolyard. If you’re worried about kids being curious about sex younger, instead of criticising this site, you might consider criticising the soft porn, “Longer Lasting Sex!” and other crap we’re forced to view on billboards, public transport ads and TV ads.

  13. The site may be ugly, but the content is amazingly good. I’m rather liking it. It definitely could use some easier navigation, but it IS the sort of clunky design a kid could create.

  14. Heh – just checked back and they have published it – and so far there’s not one comment on there agreeing with Sattler!

  15. Yay – well done Helen.

  16. Helen, thank for this:
    “If you’re worried about kids being curious about sex younger, instead of criticising this site, you might consider criticising the soft porn, “Longer Lasting Sex!” and other crap we’re forced to view on billboards, public transport ads and TV ads.”
    It can’t be repeated often enough.

  17. In the “What do you think?” section:
    “How do you use a tampon? I agree / I disagree / I don’t know”
    Roughly half the questions are phrased in a way that makes the first two invalid answers. Am I missing something?

  18. I think the site is way too simple. I would have found it patronising when I was in grade 7, and what’ with the ‘sex bits’? Even my 3yo knows the proper words.

  19. I’m on the fence about its simpleness. On the other side, it’s worth considering that the site isn’t aimed at children in families where they were taught proper anatomical names in toddlerhood.


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