Posted on 07 April 2016 by Jason
Jason Royce: Four Impressions
Last month the Romance Academy and Youthscape team went out for lunch to say our final goodbyes to Jason. Here is an update about what he has moved on to and his reflections from working at Romance Academy.
I was Romance Academy's Director for exactly 3 years. In that time I travelled the length and breadth of the UK (and even squeezed in visits to the USA & Sweden) talking about healthy relationships and sex. I wanted to share 4 impressions I have as I leave.
The tough topics are still...tough. I often joke that Romance Academy broke my social filter, and strongly deny rumours that it was never 'fixed'! Either way, I've certainly found that the words sex, pornography, and masturbation can make any room full of adults mightily uncomfortable. Equally, my work in schools across the UK has shown that these are just 3 topics in a long list that we simply must address if we're to help young people form healthy relationships. They're under enormous pressure to be sexually aware, and even sexually active, from a young age. Research shows that 1 in 3 10 year olds have seen explicit material online - anecdotal evidence suggests it's lower than that age for many. We see peer-on-peer sexual exploitation, violence in teen relationships, Child Sexual Exploitation, and the need to teach consent. From this, one thing is abundantly clear; we must give young people a clear and credible, replicable and satisfying view of healthy relationships.
I've often said that 'we' talk more about the relationships and sex we DON'T want young people to have, than we do about the kind we DO want them to have. Let's fix that. Let's challenge brokenness, oppression, discrimination, and abuse in all it's forms. But unless we have a vision of what a better world looks like, unless we can frame healthy relationships, and unless we practice it ourselves, we're not fixing the root cause.
Let me also say this; young people are incredible. Don't be tempted to despair - young poeple want healthy relationships too, all over the UK they're starting to reject the lies of pornography, they want us to show them a healthy sexuality!
We must include parents and guardians in the conversation. One of my favourite things, aside from the work with young people, has been our roadshows for parents and guardians. We have two roadshows; Let's Talk About Sex and Let's Talk About Porn. I've met thousands of parents and guardians (& grandparents too) who are doing an amazing job of raising this generation. We've resourced them, trained them, and said "well done" because time and again we're stunned at just how fantastic they are! I've had more than a few tough days that have ended with a roadshow and, after an evening in a room full of these people, I'm inspired to get up and do it all again tomorrow.
Here's the challenge though; the people who often need it the most are the least likley to attend. This very challenge is why so many attendees at our roadshows end up being advocates for the work of Romance Academy, and it's why so many of them support our work with monthly donations. Together, we're reaching further than ever before!
Youth workers are brilliant. The hundreds of youth workers we've trained in my time are some of the sharpest thinking, innovative, and passionate people I've met. They're a real force, a movement of change to create a culture of healthy relationship education in the UK. They care deeply, make untold sacrifices, and don't hear "thanks" very often. Youth workers - THANK YOU!
Youth workers and parents, together - that's a powerful combination so we love it when the adults around a young person start teaming up to give them the best input and support.
The tide is turning. From what I've seen in schools, communities, and churches, I think things are beginning to change! I'm seeing an openness to talking about relationships and sex and that is leading to change. Ofsted have, for a while now, required schools to teach on healthy relationships (often neglected in secondary schools) and not just the mechanics of sex. Schools are also advised to include parents and invite outside agencies to help get the conversation started - as a result, schools are starting to lead the way in communities! One Head Teacher I spoke to recently told his board "You might want to make cuts, but you can't cut the healthy relationship lessons, they're vital for our students!"
Young People themselves are becoming more dissatisfied with the hollow and fleeting sex often offered by the media and are starting to critique the relational models they've been given. With or without us, they're creating new ways to have healthy relationships, often surpassing our expectations!
Romance Academy has grown because of the youth workers across the UK. The national team is focussed on resourcing others. It's because we know that a real impact requires the mobilisation of local youth workers, church and community leaders, schools, parents, guardians, and most importantly; young poeple themselves. Perhaps we've played a small part in helping to make that happen.
On February 1st I took up a new role as Director of a new charity, The Souster Youth Trust. I'll be working on the ground with young peope based in the Northamptonshire area and I'm looking forward to delivering Romance Academy sessions there too. I might even appear at the odd Romance Academy roadshow and conference!