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“First Kiss” | European experts gather in European Capital of Culture to promote sexual awareness

On Friday, European Capital of Culture will host more than a hundred international experts at the "First Kiss" sexual education conference. Specialists will discuss Estonian and European humanities trends and share the best teaching practices.

Kissing Students. Foto: Mana Kaasik
16. May

Conference participants will, among other things, get an overview of young people’s expectations for sexual education and different ways how to deal with these topics with young people in a more modern way. Among other things, you can experience the VR application “Emotions of Love”, take part in an e-quiz and an orgasm lab workshop.

“Young people’s experiences are very different across Estonia. There are leading specialists in schools who widely discuss sexual health topics, but also those who practically do not at all,” said Kristel Jakobson-Pallo, project manager of the educational programme. According to them, it is important to involve different parties who come into contact with young people in one way or another. This is in order to find ways to meet the expectations of today’s youth better than before and to support them in the process of becoming themselves.

Opening words of the conference focus on the question of what it means to grow into oneself and what creates the necessary environment for a young person. In the second panel, human education and sexuality education will be discussed through the eyes of young people.

Up to five practical workshops are available for participants to join. Police Captain Maarja Punak discusses the dangers of the internet to sexual education. “Sexual awareness should be a collaboration between school and home – if issues reach us, it’s already very concerning. Young people may not critically assess their sources when seeking advice on sexual topics and could end up in communication with malicious individuals who give dangerous advice or ridicule them – at worst, they may engage with a pedophile,” said Punak. “We know that people with malicious intentions frequently visit these forums because it’s easy to pretend to be someone else online,” they added.

Panel discussions are led by educational psychologist Merilin Mandel, Human Studies Association member Silja Piir, Kärdla School Director Margit Kagadze, and youth work specialist Markos Parve. Adult educator Trine Tamm moderates the discussion. Katriin Kütt-Oad presents her master’s thesis, which examines young people’s expectations and perceptions of sexual education.

The sexual education “golden fleece” is conducted by Kaili Laasik, a 12th-grade student at Tartu Kristjan Jaak Peterson High School, who conducted a study on sexual awareness among young people regarding questions related to sexuality, based on family education. Laasik found in the results that the biggest problem is that teachers in Estonian schools do not openly discuss sexual health, and the same applies at home. Similarly to Punak, Laasik also highlights the dangers of the internet in shaping young people’s sexual awareness.

The VR application “Emotions of Love” and the e-quiz environment are introduced by the University of Tartu Science School, which all workshop participants can try out. The Estonian Medical Students’ Society presents the workshop on the orgasm laboratory (two out of four workshops are in English).

In total, there are over a hundred specialists working with young people from Estonia, Malta, and the Czech Republic at the Estonian National Museum. The conference focuses on international best practices concerning challenges in addressing human studies and sexual health-related topics. You can view the programme here.

The youth-focused educational programme “First Kiss” is part of the “Kissing Tartu” project, which is part of the main programme of European Capital of Culture Tartu 2024. The project is supported by Erasmus+ and the European Solidarity Corps Agency under the Erasmus+ programme.