Youth ministry plays down 'wrist tape' controversy

Published 19 February 2014  |  

An Irish Catholic youth ministry has played down concerns over a role play exercise it uses in workshops to help explain the value of chastity, which involves taping students' wrists.

Pure in Heart found itself on the receiving end of criticism after a student from a school in Dublin described their experience in an article on the Irish news website Journal.ie.

Describing the role play, the student said: "Towards the end of the talk four girls and one guy were asked to 'volunteer' to come up to the front. A piece of Sellotape was put around the wrists of one of the girls and the guy."

Speaking about the intended metaphor, the student explained: "The girl was in a sexual relationship with the guy. But they break up.

"This was demonstrated by one of the speakers ripping the Sellotape off their wrists, in what must have been somewhat painful.

"The process was repeated with the three other girls (and the same guy, with the same piece of Sellotape). This was supposed to demonstrate the effect of having sex before marriage. The Sellotape collects hair and is no longer useful."

"We were told how 'God loves sex'.  However it was implied that is only after marriage."

Responding in a statement, Pure in Heart said the role play had "never caused any controversy" in its presentations or workshops before.  

"This is a typical classroom role play done in a fun way," it said. 

"Pure in Heart are in constant reciept of positive feedback both from student participants and supervising adults.

"For the Journal.ie article to have suggested that the majority of students are uncomfortable is quite alarming and without basis."

The student in the article also claimed that the group "casually" equated serial killers with people who watch pornography. Pure In Heart did not comment on this particular claim.

The criticism has led to calls being made for better regulation of Ireland's sex education.

"Some government oversight is needed on groups that go into schools delivering talks without parental knowledge or consent," Ian Power, Director of Irish youth service SpunOut.ie, told Journal.ie.

"No one is overseeing how often they're doing it, what schools are delivering in full, what is in line with their ethos."

Mr Power also criticised teaching abstinence in schools, saying it is "not an effective, nor is it a comprehensive way to promote safe sex among young people".

"It's up to each individual – the choice to have sex or not and that needs to be at the forefront of sexual education. Also, having respect for your partner, that's the message that needs to be gotten across and it's much more empowering than saying 'don't do something'."

The student who talked to Journal.ie also said that there was very little engagement from the speakers, and that the pupils were being talked at more than talked to.

"For many others, myself included, we were somewhat frustrated by the content of the presentation. If we had any questions to challenge what they were saying it was dismissed or glossed over. There was no real engagement on issues outside of their PowerPoint slide."

Pure In Heart disputed this, saying: "There are opportunities for questions and answers, both in a group forum and on a personal basis. No one person is over-looked or any question unanswered.

"It is not a 'sex-education' forum or lecture."

The Irish Department of Education state that a "qualified classroom teacher is the best placed professional to work sensitively and consistently with students and that s/he can have a powerful impact on influencing students' attitudes, values and behaviour in all aspects of health education".

New reforms announced last month will include a course on relationships and sexuality as part of Social, Personal and Health Education, and will aim to make provision of sex education more consistent.

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