Dear AQA

Dear Aqa,

As a professional author and mother of a young girl, I would like to share a few poems that I have been asked to read in schools to GCSE age students, mainly by concerned teachers or school nurses who have few other ways to speak of safe female sexual pleasure to students but who know that the effect of being silent on or demonising these topics has dire consequences for young girls sexual safety as they grow up.

At GCSE I studied Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare. This, I think, is part if your curriculum. In this play two underage young people have penetrative sex with each other and then kill themselves. It is held up as one of the greatest love stories. I studied Chaucer’s Canterbury tales. There was arse licking and brooms shoved into vaginas as an example of comic verse. Chaucer is considered one of England’s greatest poets. Nobody banned these texts in my school exams because of their violent or sexual content, or because of the author’s private sex lives. Nor do I think they should.

That you have, in 2021, banned even referencing a young female whose work you previously admired purely because she has delivered a blog review of sex toys, toys which are, for many girls, one of the safest first ways to learn about their own bodies ( much safer than having actual sexual relations ) in a culture that, because of censorship like yours, still makes that seem extremely shameful, I think is not only extremely bias but dangerous for the message it gives.

I hope you reconsider Zoella ‘s place on your media curriculum if this is indeed the reason she has been removed and, instead of submitting to some parental complaints, actually make a reasoned public statement that you do not think it correct to remove a person from your curriculum because she highlights ways in which she enjoys her own body. You are an exam board not a moral judge and your curriculum is full of authors and poets and scientists who mention sex, both in their work and private lives. Private lives you may not agree with but have nonetheless not banned them for.

Please stop demonising certain sexual references or stories over others. I would much rather my fourteen year old daughter copied Zoella’s example than Juliet’s. I think most would. I do not want to ban my daughter from learning Shakespeare’s play because of this. This is more important than you seem aware of.

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