This idea of dark, overwhelming sexuality has recently become a hot topic in mainstream culture—from a string of Hollywood films broaching the subject to various celebrities checking into sex rehab.
The tug-of-war over sex ed is not unique, it’s been a source of contention in the US culture wars ever since the first organized sex-ed program emerged in Chicago in 1913.
As cultural norms around sexuality evolve, it’s become increasingly clear that children, left to their own devices, will inevitably encounter issues related to consent, gender identity, and sexual preference as they grow up.
And so a growing movement is pushing for comprehensive sex education, which provides kids with “age-appropriate, medically accurate information on a broad set of topics related to sexuality, including human development, relationships, decision-making, contraception, and disease prevention.”
Some parents may be hesitant to expose their children to this type of sex ed, whether for religious reasons or a simple desire to preserve their innocence.
So where is the problem?
We see there is a control that is induced in the education system where parents tend to decide what and what kind of material should be provided to their kids, in a way what should be taught and what shouldn’t be. There goes everything crashing, when we limit what we can seek. There should be liberty in learning and exploring for healthy growth of children.
Some parents argue that they should be the ones to determine what their child learn about their sexuality.
And exposure to sex ed has been proven to lower the likelihood of teens becoming sexually active, increase the likelihood that they will use contraception if they do, and help prevent sexual violence. And, while many parents worry that giving kids too much information about sex too soon will make them more likely to become sexually active, research shows that isn’t the case.
What mainstream culture doesn’t include is inclusivity. There is a pre-notion thought that sexual education really becomes controversial when it wades into cultural territory, by teaching children about LGBT issues, abortion, or gender identity, among other sensitive topics.
What can be done?
Sex Ed programs should address gender and power at least once are more effective at reducing rates of pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease than those that don’t. And they appear to more accurately reflect the reality of modern romance.
Including a discussion of the effects of traditional gender roles and the consequences of unequal power in relationships better reflects the reality that young people’s choices about sex will take place in.
Never have I ever seen my sex education classes include the chapter on gender identities and importance of their sexual health. All we have seen is binary divisions.
It’s also important for young people who identify as queer to see themselves represented in the materials taught in sex ed class.
Talking openly about sexuality and gender identity in sex ed can help combat bullying and prejudice in schools, too. What might apply to one person, might not be the same for others who see his/her identity as different.
Perhaps the best way to illustrate my argument is with my personal experience…
I studied in a co-ed school where actually reproductive chapters in biology were not taught to us properly, either we used to skip the chapters, or were suggested to read them at home and ask doubts if we have in class. Mostly I was a shy girl then, even if I had a lot of doubts I never asked.
However, instead of learning about different methods of birth control, or about consent, I was shown pictures of STD symptoms and a very graphic video of an abortion procedure. Rather than learning about safe and healthy sex, I was taught to be terrified of the very act of intercourse and the potential consequences.
School was not where I learnt about sex. So there lies the problem.
Many men can believe that what they see in porn is a reality – that they are going to find a hairless bombshell who will give her all for his satisfaction (and will, in doing so, magically achieve her own).
On the contrary, women are told that sex is an act of love and, even if it is not the most pleasurable of acts, the feelings involved are what matters. If you mix these two beliefs, you end up with troubling scenarios like the one where unprotected sex is seen as ‘most pleasurable’ and the best way to keep your partner content!
Our challenge as educators is this: Will we help to develop these values and educate for character in sex, as in all other areas?
If we do not move decisively—in our schools, families, churches, government, and media—to promote a higher standard of sexual morality in our society, we will surely see a continued worsening of the plague of sex-related problems—promiscuity, sexual exploitation and rape, unwed pregnancy, abortions, sexually transmitted diseases, the emotional consequences of uncommitted sex, sexual harassment in schools, children of all ages focused on sex in unwholesome ways, sexual infidelity in marriages, pornography, the sexual abuse of children, and the damage to families caused by many of these problems.
Sexuality is really a part of being a human being,” Lang explains, “and it’s broader than just making babies and puberty, which is what most schools focus on, because that feels science-y and safe.
From reproduction without sex to open relationships, our attitudes towards sex may evolve rapidly in the near future. And that’s not the result of what mainstream culture taught us about sex.
The sexual corruption of children reflects an adult sexual culture in which the evidence continues to mount that sex is out of control.
Sex is powerful. It was Freud who said that sexual self-control is essential for civilization. And, we should add, for character.
Any character education worthy of the name must help students develop sexual self-control and the ability to apply core ethical values such as respect and responsibility to the sexual domain.
An abstinence message is further weakened when schools provide how-to condom instruction and/or distribute condoms. Teachers providing condom instruction will commonly demonstrate how to fit a condom to a model (or students may be asked to put a condom on a banana).
Whereas, given teenagers’ vulnerability to pregnancy despite the use of condoms and the fact that condoms provide inadequate protection against AIDS and no protection against many STDs, it is irresponsible to promote the myth that condoms make sex physically safe. Condoms do not make sex emotionally safe.
Mainstream culture doesn’t help students develop the crucial character quality of self-control—the capacity to curb one’s desires and delay gratification. To the extent that sex education is in any way permissive toward teenage sexual activity, it fosters poor character and feeds into the societal problem of sex-out-of-control.
It doesn’t develop an ethical understanding of the relationship between sex and love.
Giving students a foundation in relationship-building and centering the notion of care for others can enhance wellbeing and pave the way for healthy intimacy in the future, experts say, which has been lacking since long in our sex education approach.
Simply teaching students how to ask for consent isn’t enough, the idea behind the curriculum shouldn’t be that anything goes, so long as students can discuss their reasoning. Instead, the goal is that students develop the critical-reasoning skills to do the right thing in tricky situations.
If a young person is not in a healthy relationship, they can’t negotiate sex in a meaningful way.“ Really discussing healthy relationships and building that foundation is important. Even if you are not having sex yet, you are grappling with the idea of what healthy relationship is.”
And it’s critical to start that work before college.
When there’s a disconnect between the information students get at school and what they can find on the Internet, mixed messaging makes it harder for teens to rely on the people they trust.
Encouraging openness and compassion helps both parents and teens keep communication flowing with honesty.
Sex is not bad but the way it is foster in our society and amongst us can be changed. The key to right education, spreading awareness is in our hands. Let’s all be part of this change from now onwards.
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