'Children have a right to sex for pleasure' - JOIN THE DEBATE

SCHOOLCHILDREN in Sheffield have a 'right' to an enjoyable sex life according to a controversial new leaflet produced by the city's NHS Trust.

The NHS Sheffield pamphlet, entitled 'Pleasure' and aimed at youngsters aged 14 and over, claims experts concentrate too much on the need for safe sex and loving relationships, and not enough on the pleasure sex can bring.

The advice, which also claims regular sex is good for a healthy heart, has been circulated to parents, teachers and youth workers.

Under the heading 'An orgasm a day keeps the doctor away' it asks: "What about sex twice a week? Health promotion experts advocate five portions of fruit and veg a day and 30 minutes' physical activity three times a week."

Today critics questioned the "wisdom" of the leaflet, and family campaigners said it could encourage young people into promiscuity and increased rates of sexually-transmitted diseases.

Scroll down to see what our readers think of the NHS's 'orgasm a day' message to youngsters. And let us know your thoughts by adding a comment below.

A spokesman for the Church of England Diocese of Sheffield said: "It is quite clear that questions relating to issues around sex are coming from children of younger ages in our parishes and in our schools across the diocese.

"However, the wisdom of issuing this kind of proactive publicity possibly needs to be questioned."

But Sue Greig, consultant in public health at NHS Sheffield, said all the evidence shows the opposite is true.

She said in countries where there is more openness about sex, such as the Netherlands, young people wait longer than British teenagers before having their first experience. Levels of teenage pregnancy are also significantly lower in the Netherlands than in the UK, which has the highest rate in Western Europe.

Dr Greig stressed the leaflet is aimed as guidance for parents, teachers and youth workers, to help them find ways of discussing sex with teenagers.

One of the authors of the leaflet is Steve Slack, director of the Centre for HIV and Sexual Health at NHS Sheffield.

He said: "It is designed to support professionals to speak to young

people to ensure they are emotionally ready for sexual relationships, to help build their self-esteem, and to help them be able to better resist peer pressure, and negotiate and practise safe sex when they feel they are ready.

"Far from promoting teenage sex, it is designed to encourage young people to delay losing their virginity until they are sure they will enjoy the experience."

But Dr Trevor Stammers, of the pressure group Family and Youth Concern, said the leaflet would encourage 'risky' behaviour and an increase in sexually transmitted diseases.

"It is unbelievable that this is being sent to schools", he said. "I'd like to know what scientific evidence there is to back this up. There are an awful lot of overpaid and under-occupied health promotion officers around who are obsessed with sex."

He added that inciting underage sex was "nothing less than encouraging child abuse".

About 40,000 teenagers become pregnant every year in the UK - the highest level in western Europe. More than half end in abortion.

We asked people on the streets of Sheffield what they think:

"You have got to work with young people and listen to them. I think it's up to parents to talk to children about relationships but some don't have parents who will sit down and talk to them.

"I think it all depends on how the leaflet is worded. But I think the important thing is parents need to find a way to talk to children."

Margery Etches, aged 61, a legal secretary from Woodseats

"I think it's good to get across the message that sex is fun, and it is part of a balanced healthy life.

"You hear so much about sex in relation to AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases that the positive side gets missed out. I think it's good for young people to see it's a normal healthy thing."

Mark Fearnley, 21, a student from Wadsley

"I think it's great that they've done this leaflet. It's about time this country came out of the dark ages so young people learn sex is something to be enjoyed. The UK needs to have better sex education."

Gavin Bryan, 39, a maintenance engineer from Dronfield

"I think if you are open with your child then they can come to you and talk about sex they are ready. When they start having boyfiends, then as a parent you don't want to put them off talking about it with you."

Sally Kenworthy, aged 40, a shop assistant and mum-of-one from Woodhouse Mill

"I think it's good to have a leaflet about the positive side of relationships and to have information that is positive about sex."

Suzanne Hall, 22, shop assistant, from Huddersfield


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