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Nudity, sex and sexual content are readily available across the internet, so why not be blunt and honest when educating kids about puberty?
That is what the Norwegian public broadcaster NRK aims to do with a special puberty series on 'Newton', its popular science program for kids aged 8 to 12 years old.
The show's host Line Jansrud, a doctor who is passionate about the honest approach to matters concerning the human body, breaks taboos as she takes viewers through all the ups and downs of puberty.
Straight to the point, the series shows actual breasts, penises and vaginas and is known for using visual storytelling, being unabashed, specific and up close.
In one episode (above) titled ‘Vagina and Menstruation,’ they show a developed woman’s vagina, and explain where all the different parts are and how they work.
Jansrud explains why women menstruate and how to deal with it, using actual red liquid, instead of bright blue liquid to demonstrate menstrual blood.
Used pads are shown to demonstrate the difference in colour of bleeding on the first and last day of the period.
In another episode, Jansrud demonstrates French kissing on a tomato.
“This tomato does not have a tongue, but it feels roughly the same,” she says.
She also uses a vacuum cleaner to demonstrate love bites.
Jansrud says, “It works the same way as a vacuum cleaner. If someone sucks hard enough on your neck, you get bleeding under your skin. A bruise, simply.”
The program shows real bodies instead of drawings or dolls, and isn’t afraid to show everything. In the first episode it shows a man and woman with developed bodies standing naked.
Throughout, the program explains that the purpose of puberty is to be able to make babies, but they also emphasise the age of consent and that it is better to wait until you are ready.
In an episode, which directly addresses ‘sex and stuff,’ Jansrud uses a lifelike mannequin and dildo to demonstrate penetration and points out that, "for it to be pleasant, it's vital that the vagina is moist enough."
“And for the girl, it is also very important that the clitoris is rubbed.”
Masturbation is no taboo either, with Jansrud introducing the topic bluntly: “And now, what everyone starts with sooner or later, but rarely talks about, stroking your own sex parts.”
“To masturbate, both the clitoris of the girl and the head of the penis on a boy are full of nerves that make it pleasant to touch.”
In addition to using the scientific names of all the different body parts, the program also uses, or at least references, all the slang words for the various organs.
In the first episode Jansrud introduces the topic of sex, “otherwise known as fucking, screwing, shagging, getting it on, or making love.”
Testicles are also known as “balls, nuts, bollocks.”
As the French Canadian Julien Bourelles who settle in Norway explains in his book The Social Guidebook to Norway "Norwegians are straight to the point, they don’t beat around the bush".
Yet, the show has received both praise and criticism from viewers in Norway.
Some of the criticism has claimed that programs like Newton are leading to sexual radicalisation of children, whilst defenders of the show say it is showing real bodies and their development rather than all the unnatural sexual behaviours found on the internet.
Others see it as a realistic sex education as it talks about a subject that is often sensitive and wrought with many myths, especially for hormonal teenagers.
The broadcaster NRK have stated that “we acknowledge that some don't want to see this subject matter, so each episode open with a regular warning, albeit delivered in a humorous way.”
Thus each episode opens with:
‘Now immediately start Newton’s puberty series.
It is normal for some parents to be embarrassed.
You are hereby warned.’
To watch the videos on YouTube, as above, you will have to sign in to prove you are over 18. They have also been censored by Facebook when sharing their videos.
This is not the first time NRK produced a program about sexuality for children.
In the 80’s they showed nude bodies in a program called Kroppen (The Body).
In one notorious episode from Kroppen, explaining conception, the program host used a pile of white ropes to illustrate semen and ran around studio before one sperm finally reached the ‘egg’ – a plasticine ball and mashed them together.
Even that show, which is modest according to today’s standards, caused a lot of controversy in its time.
As for Newtown, Broadcaster NRK has gone as far as issuing a statement about their choice to run the content, arguing that the program provides an invaluable sex education, in particular for children that don’t feel they have anyone to talk to about these topics.
"There is still ignorance surrounding the body’s development and function," NRK explains.
"We’re a factual supplement to all the other things children can access online."
"It’s not enough to divulge that the sperm swim towards the egg."
Watch the episode 'What's the deal with puberty?' here - but be warned, even though it's a children's program in Norway, YouTube requires that you confirm you are at least 18 years or older to watch it here:
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