Sex education in nowadays – What teenagers need to be taught in class nowadays

MDIA2002 Analysing Media Communication
Assessment 4 Media Analysis Article 2
Winky Wong z3493441 AlexanneThur1.30


Sex education in nowadays – What teenagers need to be taught in class nowadays


It is often controversial and sensitive to the society and the parents when it comes to issue related to sex education and teenage sexuality. This, in nowadays’ digital era where information is ubiquitous and freely accessible on the internet, can no longer be discussed behind the curtain. Adolescences, in particular young male, are being exposed to sexual content on a substantial level, whether inadvertently or deliberately, according to the study of Australian Institute of Criminology. During the developmental period, teens are vulnerable and easily influenced by external factors, the exposure to sexual information such as pornography will pose hindrance to them in building healthy sexual knowledge. There has been a frequent news reports about teens involved in sexual intercourse and suffered from sexual harassment, with the easy access on sexual information on internet, concerns over the effectiveness of sex education in school have arisen.

Many articles address the notion of current sex education approach not comprehensive and that the outcome failed to meet expectation and adolescences are still lack of sufficient knowledge on dealing with sexual matter, while at the same time, reportage over teen sexual assault associated crime has been mounting, revealing an urgency for better sex education is in need for school kids. The two articles that will be analysed in the following alike present same perspective that current sex education is not enough for teenagers and it needs to be reconsidered. The first article that will be examined is a commentary piece from Sydney Morning Herald, and the second one is a soft news article also from Sydney Morning Herald. Interestingly, although they are journalism articles of different styles, they both draw attention to the problems teenagers are facing on sexual issue and what current sex education is deficient of, providing compelling arguments in reviewing the subject. One portrays the situation with construction of personal opinion and arguments, while the other illustrates the scenario based on experts’ research and project. This analysis will support the conclusion that sex education for todays’ young generation requires a reform and more coverage on content of handling pornography and sexual relationship and meaning.

The commentary piece “Sex ed in schools is still missing the point” is written by Sarah Gill, published on the website of Sydney Morning Herald in October this year. Explicitly stated in the headline, Gill tells her stance towards current sex education in this opinion piece. In light of the recent speech given by BBC presenter Dame Jenni Murray in the radio in which she suggested that pornography could be shown to the school children as part of the sex education, Gill highlights her perspective in the outset of the article: “…outside the classroom, for the most part, they’re already watching (pornography) it in droves”, indicating that kids exposing to pornography is not something new and we ought to do something about this.

She adds “In Britain – though – where even basic sex education remains woefully inadequate – the proposal went down like a lead balloon” in comparison to Denmark, where same suggestion had been brought up as well, in order to draw to the claim that she thinks thorough sex education is crucial on this matter. There is an informal fallacy in this argument where Gill comes to conclusion that the suggestion went unsuccessful in Britain due to the “woefully inadequate sex education”, while supplying no explanation on the example of Denmark and in what ways it can be put in comparison with the case in Britain.

In backing up her claim that “teens are already exposing to pornography on internet and it is not surprising”, she addresses the severity of teens’ exposure to sexual material with appeal to authoritative support, outlining that the average age of exposure to sexual material is around 12 years old. In addition to this point, she subsequently supplements that the free source of pornography on internet is what worth worrying, together with her own experience. Also, with the use of emotive language and description of pornography on internet: “if that’s not worrying enough”, “the stuff our children are most likely to source for free – is also the worst” and “smorgasbord of unsavory content is just a click away”, she intensifies the situation and puts readers into reflecting the internet as a contributing factor to the situation, and convincing them into agreeing her ideology.

What about the consequences if we don’t provide youngsters a robust sexual knowledge, especially in relation to pornographic material?

Gill demonstrates her interpretative claims on this in reinforcing the urgency of the issue.


 The more we refuse to engage, the more pervasive – and the more subversive – its influence may become.”

“…by the time Australian schools enlist our teens in any kind of dialogue about sexual attitudes and behaviour – and heaven knows, we wouldn’t want to do that before they’re ready – most of them will have been exposed to, or consuming, pornographic material for years.”


Why is it an urgent issue? Gill also draws out her claim, suggesting that “the norms of teenage sexual behavior, including attitudes to consent and sexual aggression – are fundamentally shifting”. This is backed up by a study which reveals that “one-quarter of young people now think it’s acceptable to pressure a woman into sex”. However, an uncertainty of the supporting source needs to be marked here – where does this research come from?

There is another informal fallacy and over-generalisation where she attributes the reason of public attitude on “sexist peer norms and cultures of group disrespect” to pornography.


If the prevailing attitudes on display – what researchers term “sexist peer norms and cultures of group disrespect” – are not all down to porn, there’s little doubt pornography consumption can supercharge the mindset. Seriously, how could it not – when almost 90 per cent of pornographic content includes depictions of verbal and physical aggression against women?”


It is telling that Gill attempts to further persuade readers with strong emotive-provoking language and a question and answer style that pornography shapes the mindsets of teenagers nowadays.

In addition to the fallacies of the article, there is a false analogy where she compares the case of Sweden to our Australian society, when two societies have different views on sexual issue. She quotes a line from the video which is part of the sex education teaching materials of Swedish schools, that implies obvious sexual message: “It’s as simple as tea. if they don’t want to drink it, don’t make them drink it. If they’re unconscious, don’t make them tea. Unconscious people don’t want tea, trust me on this.”. She underlines that: “Too obvious, you say? Actually, sadly, not.”, and operates this under an assumption that Australian society and our teenagers are in same circumstance as Swedish, while she does not demonstrate more detailed analysis and examination into these cases.

It is not until the end of the article has Gill revealed her central claim over the role of pornography in the sex education, which she proclaims that “porn already is the new sex ed” and suggests readers take this into consideration and open up conversation with children about this matter in order to teach them the critical analysis skills regarding the pornographical material and message that can be found elsewhere in today’s culture.


Let’s take a look of the second article “Sex education needs radical overhaul, say experts” written by Jill Stark and published on SMH’s website. Much different from comment piece, soft news doesn’t present explicit personal opinion on the matter, however, it positions and directs the readers into its point of view frequently with the use of factual claims, statistical support, authoritative and credible opinion on the issue.

The primary claim of the article is revealing in the headline and from the outset that current sex education is imperfect and needs to be redesigned. From the choice of words, Stark adopts a strong and insistent tone in illustrating the situation:


Australia’s outdated sex education system must be radically overhauled to include lessons on sexual assault, consent and ”sexting” in a bid to address rising rates of violence against women, leading experts have claimed.”


The term “must be” expresses a strong obligation to the course of the action making it sound necessary. It also operates under a circumstance that the readers almost certainly agree with the obligation.

With reference to experts’ viewpoints, the article clearly highlights what students need to be taught at school and in what aspects can the current education be improved in the beginning of the article: “anti-rape message” and “information on sexual pleasure, masturbation and pornography”. Following this claim, the article points out the flaws of the current sex education approach as “teaching only about preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease” and “leaves young people ill-equipped to negotiate the complexities of sexual relationships” that only focuses on risk management, indicating that the current approach is insufficient in teaching teens about sex.

To support the article’s argument, it draws on to the example of Professor Lumby who has been working for an Australian Research Council project and is knowledgeable in gender issue, and includes substantial direct quotes from the professor. Professor Lumby stresses her concern over the confusion the children are having when dealing with sexual message and relationship in the quotes, which these quotations underpin the claim of this argument with credible source of information and opinion.

It reveals what the current sex education is lacking of through the quotes from a professional:


“’The young men we’ve talked to understand that no means no, but what about when a girl doesn’t say no.”

 “Our sex education needs to teach the ‘no means no’ message, but we also need to teach what does ‘yes mean yes’ look like?”


 Not only one source of professional opinion does the article employ, but a total of three, and each builds on each other.

The article sources a quote from Stef Tipping, an expert of sexual assault issue in secondary school, which this quote also plays a role in consolidating the claim as she agrees to better education is crucial since “entrenched double standards” that seen sexually active girls as “slut” and boys as “legend” often happen, which exacerbates the confusion to children when they come across sexual subject.

Another professional source that the article uses in supporting the claim and finishing the argument is the opinion from Lauren Rosewarne, who is an expert from the University of Melbourne specializing in the field of gender politics, in which she emphasizes sex education needs to be taught to children at an early age, considering that the average age children get exposure of pornography from internet is young. The author ends the article with a quote from expert to readdress the importance of the issue, without passing on her own explicit personal judgment, however, it is straightforward that the author’s view towards the issue is embedded throughout the construction of the article.

Sex education is a broad and sensitive issue implicating some other relating topics, such as government policy, school policy, education system, teenagers’ well-being, popular culture and internet influence. These two articles put focus on the problems the children are encountering in relation to sexual attitude and relationship, which then unveil the drawbacks of the current sex education system that is limited in teaching a thorough understanding of sex to the students and without taking into account of the social culture and the norms towards sex that are influenced by it. Although the two articles are written in different journalistic styles, one is an opinion article that argument is built upon author’s personal viewpoint with minimal reference to reliable source, while the other is a soft news style that addresses social issue and constructs its argument substantially with help of professional quotes and sources, they both present compelling angles and perspectives in reviewing and comprehending the foundation of this subject.





Article 1 (Sarah Gill, Sydney Morning Herald)


Article 2 (Jill Stark, Sydney Morning Herald)


Other reference sources:


First Media Analysis Article – Winky Wong, AlexanneThur1300

MDIA2002 Analszing Media Communication

First Media Analysis Article


Article 1

“Shorten’s gay marriage backflip? More like a death roll”
by Miranda Devine from The Daily Telegraph


Legalisation of same sex marriage has always been a controversial issue in many countries, and particularly in recent Australian society. Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull and his Liberal Party is fulfilling the promise to take same sex marriage plebiscite to a national poll when Turnbull took over the seat from former PM Tony Abbott, in which this plebiscite implies that the legalisation of same sex marriage is up to all Australians to decide whether they prefer keeping the tradition definition of marriage or redefining it. Meanwhile, on the contrary, the opposite party of the government, Labor Party, has been actively resisting and obstructing the further process in the Senate of passing plebiscite, in a view that this would unleash hatred among the society.

In the following analysis, I would first analyse this piece of commentary against same sex plebiscite that argues the policies and attitudes of the Labor Party, towards the free vote, whether the party is doing this for the best of the people or not. Bill Shorten as the representative of the Labor party, his standpoint equals with the whole party’s viewpoint. Before this year Parliament Election, Shorten had put a 100 positive policies into his election campaign, in which he promised that legislating same sex marriage would be the top priority of Labor’s government in the first 100 days. However, he decided to block the same sex marriage plebiscite after the election and believed that it is for the good of the Australian.

The author Miranda Devine from the Daily Telegraph writes this commentary against Shorten’s decision on blocking the plebiscite as it is not a good decision for all Australian, and in doing this is leading the party to a “death roll”.  The author has one principal central claim and it is supported by 3 main argumentative claims. From the headline of this article, it is not implicit that the author has stated her standpoint quite clearly from the outset that she is not supportive of what Bill Shorten, which is the leader of the Labor party, is doing to the legalisation of gay marriage. It can also be said that the author flags her central claim at the beginning which she believes “same sex marriage plebiscite is a right thing”, as blocking the plebiscite is “more like a death roll”. The choice of words such as “backflip” and “death roll” both indicates negative meaning.

At the introduction and the first par of the article, the author has already given her evaluative and interpretative opinion. She writes:

“IN the end it came down to this: Bill Shorten, the incredible shrinking man, reduced his campaign from “100 positive policies” to a full-frontal attack on the marriage plebiscite. He had given up before he even reached the finish line. “

 “It’s mystifying why Labor would stake its campaign on the marriage issue, which in marginal seats is either an irrelevancy or electoral poison, unless Shorten’s truncated ambition was just to bolster his vote in Labor’s heartland.”

 With the use of intense adjectives and emotion-provoking words, Devine highlights these in the beginning of the article and this is persuasive to the readers who already disagree with Shorten’s decision. The underlying assumption here is that the author hopes to capture haters of Shorten’s engagement and also gives a hint to those supporters why she thinks so by writing: unless Shorten’s truncated ambition was just to bolster his vote in Labor’s heartland.

Following on Devine’s interpretation of Shorten’s intention, she establishs her first claim “if Shorten is doing this to win more seats in the parliament, this is not a good strategy” by the appeal of facts – a cursory examination of the demographics of key marginal seats. The author provides findings of electorates with population from complex background and likelihood of opposing same sex marriage. Justifying by the appeal of facts, which are all the findings, the author demonstrates that if Shorten is going to stop the plebiscite, which it might end up to a parliament vote instead, this might not make people from the electorates happy and therefore can’t secure his vote. However, Devine comes up an evaluative conclusion for this claim. She writes:

 “So Shorten’s sudden antipathy to the marriage plebiscite can only be seen as an early admission that he had no hope of winning government and had decided to drag the Labor Party into a politically correct dead-end.”

The author is trying to persuade readers to agree with her by mocking the ineffectiveness of Shorten’s policy and supplying accurate facts. It can also be regarded as the author is trying to build on the readers’ emotion as the commentary goes further and deeper.

Devine leads to her second point “plebiscite is what most Australians want”, which is an evaluative claim. She supports her claim and counter-argues Shorten’s comment with the back up of appeal to facts, social norms, customary practice and also emotions.

“He claims the plebiscite will “give the green light to homophobia and ugly hateful attitudes”. This is a profoundly illiberal view. And an insult to the good humour and decency of Australians. Shorten misunderstands democracy if he thinks its aim is to avoid robust disagreement.”

 “He claims Australian is rived by “systemic racism”, yet he supports a referendum on the constitutional recognition of Aborigines, and even a treaty. But surely he shouldn’t support the referendum for fear of unleashing racism and “ugly hateful attitudes”.”

 In showing the support of same sex marriage plebiscite, Devine comes to her last point “plebiscite represents everyone has a free say” through discussing and arguing with her evaluative argument and yet she has justificatory support by appeal to emotions. Since some same sex marriage activists will get radical on the issue and will try and guarantee the legislation by immoderate means, she throws a question to counter argue the activists’ stance. In this way, by questioning the opponent’s side of view, it is likely the readers will get emotionally engaged and empathised as it leaves rooms for reflection and even the readers themselves answering the question. She writes:

“By opposing the popular plebiscite, same-sex marriage activists are willing to sacrifice their entire project just to make sure the people don’t have a say. What are they frightened of?”

 By the end of the article, Devine draws attention to a successful example of same sex marriage plebiscite to justify her stance and argues back Shorten’s point by the appeal to precedent practice and authority. In having this example as her last justificatory support, it backs up all her previous claims as well, as her main argument “plebiscite is needed and is what Australians want”, which in turn disagrees with Shorten, has gotten a factual and authoritative support. This support is convincing to the readers who read until this point of the whole commentary after all previous arguments. She writes:

“Tiernan Brady, in Australia to advise the Marriage Equality campaign, said his country’s referendum “brought people together instead of tearing them apart.”.

 Also, she concludes her argument with an action-intended and emotion-provoking line: If you are against the same-sex marriage plebiscite you are against democracy. This concluding sentence convinces readers that the plebiscite is necessary on a condition that Australia is a democratic country that upholds the importance of democracy. To the readers who value democracy, this sounds motivating to them to support the plebiscite.

In summarizing Devine’s article, she has an aim for wide readership, whether those who support gay marriage or traditional heterosexual marriage, or those who support Bill Shorten and Labor Party or in adverse hate the Labor. She is well-organised in her claims counter-attacking Shorten’s, from Shorten’s underlying intention to block the plebiscite, to how Shorten ignored the popularity of the plebiscite and Shorten’s claim of “triggering hateful attitudes” against the plebiscite, she builds on from the surface and digs deeper into Shorten’s argument. In this way, it is also convincing to the readers and gradually attracting readers’ agreemnet as Devine covers all angles of Shorten’s claim and thoroughly reject one another. Besides the use of factual argument and somewhat evaluative argument, with a combination of factual, interpretative and evaluative claims, she also selects emotion-triggering words to express her stance against Shorten. This article argues systematically from different sides of opponent’s perspectives and logically follows the argument to go deeper, which highlights the need for same sex marriage plebiscite.


Article 2

“Don’t be fooled: the brutal reality is there will be no free vote on marriage equality”
by Matthew Knott from Sydney Moring Herald


This piece of commentary is arguing about same sex plebiscite from an entirely different angle from the last one. It examines the reality, ranging from the Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull and his Liberal Party’s attitude against the same sex marriage plebiscite, to the Labor’s attitude and imagined situation if the plebiscite took place or not. Given that Bill Shorten and his Labor Party, in conjunction of the Greens and Nick Xenophon Team, all have decided to join forces in order to block the plebiscite from passing from the parliament, the date for same sex marriage to be legalise seems vague. If the plebiscite could not get the consent of the houses of parliament, it would have to be delayed for 3 years, which is believed that would have triggered more resentment from people who support gay marriage. In this article, Knott discusses both party’s situation and intention behind in his factual, casual and evaluative argument and comes to a conclusion that he believes that same sex marriage will not be likely to put forward as there are many factors, particularly politics, influencing the government.

First, the title commentary again tells about the stance of the author that he has no hope on a public vote on marriage equality. With the emotion-generating word “fooled”, the author is sending a message to his intended imagined audience, which is people who are desiring, concerning or fighting for the homosexual marriage equality, that “there will be no free vote on marriage equality”. Since the title sounds shocking and evaluative, this does catch readers’ attention in finding out what the author wants to tell.

Knott presents a brief basic picture of how plebiscite has brought to spotlight by the Turnbull government in the introduction before he launches his first claim. There is an intriguing line which leads the article to the direction the author targets, which he writes:

Rather than defeated, he is unshackled. Deep down he’s happy it’s gone this way.”

 As a long time marriage equality supporter, PM Malcom Turnbull “opts for a free vote in parliament because he was swayed by passionate lobbying from advocates”, on the contrary, he opposes the plebiscite deep down and is happy to see that the plebiscite might not be able to get through the Parliament. Knott follows on this opinion by a presumption, as he predicts:

Allowed to vote according to their consciences, a same-sex marriage bill passes both houses of Parliament. There are tears of joy on the Senate floor; gay and lesbian couples around the country hit the streets to celebrate. Within days newspapers are filled with touching photos of the first gay and lesbian Australians to legally marry.”

 “The only problem: it won’t happen this way. Almost certainly not. And anyone telling supporters of same-sex marriage otherwise is promoting a dangerous fantasy. A dream as empty as it is alluring.”

 After this, Knott points to his principal claim:

“A plebiscite may not be desirable and may not be fair. But it is the only realistic option for marriage equality in this term in Parliament.”

 The warrant here Knott proposes is the reality allows no rooms for this to happen. This is supported by a number of justifications, including appeal to bad consequence, authority and comparison. He indicates that if the plebiscite could not be carried out, we would have to wait for 3 years for the next turn. Even worse, the free vote might be suspended again in the next time as Labor Party will have a binding vote in favor of marriage equality. He also justifies his claim by appealing to authority and comparison. He notes in the article with a powerful question:

“Notice how quiet Eric Abetz and Cory Bernardi have been lately?”

 This question provides rooms for readers to have some self-reflection on whether his following points are convincing. Eric Abetz and Cory Bernardi are important and influential members in Liberal Party and they usually comment on current issues, however, here Knott points out that they seem to have not spoken out against this issue and they are actually delighted to see the plebiscite on death row. Also, he specifies some other members in Liberal Party who prefer a plebiscite, yet can’t help with anything due to the stance of their party. These suggest that even though the government has raised the plebiscite up, it would no way be led to the good result.

In further explaining what is it that matters the government, Knott also identifies his second claim that internal politics is complicated that things can be tough to deal with for the government. He backs the claim up by appealing to supposed consequences if the public vote was realised. He proposes:

“If Turnbull was to backflip on his policy and allow a free vote it would inflame the conservative wing of the party. So much so that Turnbull’s leadership itself could be at stake. Scott Morrison, Barnaby Joyce, George Christensen, Abbott and many more would argue that a fundamental election commitment had been broken. They wouldn’t be wrong.”

“Furthermore, a precedent would be set. Of Shorten staring down Turnbull. Of Turnbull buckling. You folded on same-sex marriage, Labor would taunt him, so why not on a banking royal commission or an emissions trading scheme?”

 The reality is, as Knott pinpoints that the government has the power to control over the vote and impact on the result. These imagined yet somewhat true hypothesis convinces readers in the sense that a fair and just plebiscite is something that even the government could not guarantee.

There are many who argue for the effectiveness and worthiness of having a same sex plebiscite, Knott mentions the argument of the opposite side, which is suggested by former high court judge Micheal Kirby as he has insisted that same sex marriage is “a risk worth-taking”, “constitionally unnecessary” and “could unleash a a wave of hatred against gays and lesbians”. To counter-argue this point, Knott claims that there are many homosexual couples who are longing and even fighting for the legalisation, in contrast with Kirby’s argument that he has not married with his partner even though they have been in a relationship for over 40 years and still has not decided about this matter. Using a counter-argument is an effective way in consolidating the author’s own viewpoint by disagreeing and pointing out the drawback of the argument of the opposed. In addition, the warrant here testifies that one single opinion cannot represent the opinion of majority. He writes near the end of the piece:

“He also acknowledges that he has been in a committed gay relationship for over 40 years and he and his partner don’t know if they’d want to marry.”

“Other gay couples would dearly love to marry and are sick of waiting. Some would be willing to fight a plebiscite to do it.”

 Knott concludes his article through mocking and restating that how internal politics influence things easily, and leading this back to his central and second claim – the plebiscite is the only option to ensure marriage equality at the moment, however, the government is not in agreement with the general public opinion, and instead, they are pleased to see it not happening. This conclusion puts again the face of reality in front of readers and as the last resort to persuade readers in agreeing the author’s point of view of the whole piece.

Comparing article 2 to article 1, it is interesting that one reviews the same sex marriage plebiscite from the perspective of the government, the proposer, who secretly is not supportive towards the legislation, while the other discusses from the perspective of the opposite Labor Party, who publicly announces that they disapprove the plebiscite. Similarly, both the authors have well-organised system in presenting their claims in an order that first give readers a background, then illustrate the claims one by one, each with justificatory supports. By doing so, readers’ attention and engagement will be increasing as they keep reading and this is a persuasive way to also get readers’ agreement of the author’s stance and viewpoints. Different from article 1, article 2 compiles of more like author’s personal evaluative arguments, claims and ideas. Yet by making presumption of the consequence that is likely to occur, it is convincing to readers as well, since people will come up with their own thoughts after taking the presumption into consideration and might have deep empathy too. Factual and evaluative argument together are effective in clearly and logically demonstrating arguments and claims, and at the same time stronger persuasive power they allow.