Tender is an arts charity actively engaging with young people to prevent domestic and sexual
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SHOW & TELL
Intimacy & Sex – Split Banana
Run by a near-peer organisation created by young people for young people, this creative sex & relationships secondary-school session makes use of art and activism
Split Banana isn’t by any stretch of the imagination a standard teaching organisation. Among its stated aims – which include encouraging young people to have “healthy relationships with their minds, their bodies and each other” – they mention outcomes you wouldn’t necessarily expect from your child’s sex ed…
Mental health – Increasing awareness of how sex & relationships topics can impact mental and physical health, and how students can look after themselves
Emotional learning – Strengthening social and emotional learning through self-reflection, empathy and self-expression
Sexual health and legislation – Learning about rights and the law
Activism – Reflecting on social narratives and encouraging students to challenge to these ideas with peers or in wider society
It’s a 21-first century – dare we say millennial? – approach, and that’s OK by us.
How does it work?
Split Banana’s two-hour long session on Intimacy and Sex appears in the middle of its four-part programme for secondary-school children. During earlier sessions on identity and healthy relationships, facilitators lay the foundations to make students feel comfortable about sharing stories in a safe space. This alleviates the awkwardness that can naturally come with sex ed. Consent and sexuality are embedded throughout.
This sex-positive session focuses on how sex can be good, safe and pleasurable for everybody. It embeds consent in a dialogue on the nuances of emotional and physical intimacy and lays bare the facts about sexual health and how the law can support young people.
Along the way they reflect on the digital side of relationships: how sexting and pornography have impacted intimacy and our ideas about sex.
The Empathy Timeline activity involves situation cards (about sexting, for example) which play out over time. Students are each given a character and they plot their character’s thought process and feelings at key moments on the timeline:
“How did you feel when you were asked to send an explicit picture?”
“How did you feel once it was sent?”
These points help to build a subjective discussion with open participation and learning about viewing the situation from somebody else’s point of view.
It’s not all about discussion. A Split Banana USP is using artistic techniques to foster visual communication and creative expression. They engage in the wider world through craftivism: getting students to make something that represents a topic they care about and taking it, and their engagement, outside of the classroom.
Because they spend a long time together, and they’re in a safe space, students often feel comfortable enough to express diverse opinions. If these opinions are problematic given today’s social contexts and awareness, this can be a challenge to facilitators.
Split Banana works to allow students to learn and be vulnerable rather than shaming them. Facilitators are specially trained to dig deeper into these opinions, identify where narratives are coming from and make it clear that it is “behaviours” and attitudes, rather than the person, that are wrong. Equally they are careful not to give too much space to these opinions. Moving fairly quickly out of such discussions prevents them from being harmful to other people in the room.
Why does it work?
Split Banana says the key to the success of its programme is the amount of time spent building a safe space and a relaxed relationship with the students. Because facilitators are in their early- to mid-20s, they can use that generational familiarity to relate to students – they were the first generation to experience the technology, such as porn and sexting, that is now impacting how children and young people experience sex and relationships.
Report by Katie Lee