sex ed VS abstinence based
March 26, 2009, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Building Healthy Relationships | Tags: , , , , , ,

while i was in the middle schools today the health teachers were discussing the new sex. ed plan that will substitute the previous abstinence based curriculum. they were shocked at how explicit and crude the information was, how mechanical and graphic. i asked if i could read the lesson plan, and honestly i was surprised. it was very much like reading a car manual, an instruction booklet on sex: this is how you put on a condom. dry? use some lube. oral sex? use dental dam or rubbers.sex_ed_by_boundsparrow

it was full of statistics about who is having sex and how much. graphs, precisely. it was so cold and sterile. i am all for sex ed., but not one that equates knowing how to put on a condom with a safe, healthy sexual relationship.

the two teachers i spoke to at length were both men, and shared some of their experiences. one of them recalled that the only thing his parents told him about sex was to “keep it in his pants, and don’t get in no trouble”. the other teacher had a sister that became pregnant at 15, and remembered feeling safe in the fact that he, as a man, could not get pregnant and “screw his life”. they both thought that the information would not be helpful to the kids, because it was way over their heads, and inappropriate.

i don’t think it’s inappropriate because kids should not know about sex, but because it teaches nothing about the reality of sex. the much needed information is not only how to not get pregnant, or avoid STIs, but the foundation of trust, communication and mutuality that are necessary for having a healthy sex life. it’s either “no sex, you will ruin your life and go to hell”, or a superficial overview of the physiological reality of a variety of sexual acts.

i am nervous that it’s gonna make people feel even more pressured to have sex when they don’t even know what they think of it yet, because they get a sense that everyone is doing it. so many times as an advocate, or just a friend i listened to people that “gave in” to sex because it seemed like what they were supposed to do, or felt pressured by peers and boyfriends ( and sometimes girlfriend), and then felt like shit about it.

in the end it makes sense that the school system is either offering a firm no to sex, or a cut and dry instruction booklet. it’s easy! there is no discussions, or nuances, or difficult conversations about consent and safety. it’s just another sterile piece of information removed from the real, complicated lives of youth.

i am going to look more into this, because i have no idea about who is responsible for choosing one sex ed. program or another, but sitting here and bitching doesn’t feel right.

talking to high school kids about sex-part II
May 21, 2008, 3:03 pm
Filed under: Building Healthy Relationships | Tags: , , ,

i just finished my first round of workshops and presentation at a local high school, and i came out of it with a whole new perspective on the current american teenage experience. i went to school in italy until college, and we definitely did not have anything resembling abstinence education.

these kids, however, are bombarded with it. one of them showed me their health class book, in which sex was presented in two chapters: 1. “how to say no to sex until marriage”, in which sex was described like something that will break your family apart, strip you of your self worth and expose you to every imaginable danger. 2. “how to build a healthy marriage” in which a detailed description of the different phases of marriage appears, from the first stage in which the newly weds come to terms to the idealized image of coupledom they had before the nuptials, to stage 3, in which the loss of children to college has to be processed and dealt with.

oh, and as part of health class students have to sign a card (wallet sized for convenience) , in which they swear solemnly not to do the deed until after holy matrimony. now, i ask , how is this possible? how can any teenager trust any teacher when we are indocrinating them with outright lies, and making them feel like shit about their own bodies?

the time i had with them was awesome nevertheless. i was warned by the professor that some of the classes had “real trouble makers” in them, and to send them to the office if they mis-behaved. what i experienced was a diverse gruop of bright, curios and challenging individuals, that were just waiting to actually have a discussion about things that are relevant in their lives without feeling stupid.

we talked about how people are bombarded with contradictory messages about  either sex being bad and deadly, or that to be worth anything you have to be sexy and sensual, and that sex is the one thing you should want. only neither of these opposites offer any knowledge about emotions, mutuality and consent. what i saw were people so lost when it comes to relationships and sex, and eager to listen and share their genuine thoughts and fears.

it gave me hope, because it’s so obvious that people don’t want to be assholes, and many times when they are hurtful it’s because of ignorance, or social pressure or frustration. it gave me hope that this knowledge we shared can be something they can add to their tool belts and carry with them.