Friday, January 4, 2008

The best isn't great and the worst is downright dangerous.

I am writing something new, a short story about sexual education. It's not going to be published-- it's just to get out my frustration. Because I am frustrated. About the school system in this country, and how they teach lies and blatant falsehoods.

I get the urge to not teach children about sex in public schools. I get it. There's something to be said for parents teaching that sort of thing themselves, making sure that the kids know everything and are prepared. There's something to wanting to protect them from sexual relationships until they are older, even.

But lying? There is no excuse for a teacher to flat-out lie to a student about the subject matter they are teaching. I mean, a math teacher doesn't sit there and say "2+2=17 because I say so, and if anyone tells you otherwise they're lying." An English teacher doesn't say "Verbs go before the subject." Why can a health teacher say that condoms cause cancer?

And then, if they are honest and simply do not tell students the whole truth (ie don't lie, but don't tell them anything besides "it's best to wait"), it doesn't work and the teen birth rate is increasing. "But that means that we need to increase abstinence-only education! It's a failure of the comprehensive sex ed programs!" the abstinence proponents cry. If that's the case, why did teen birth rates drop steadily after the 90's when there was a massive campaign to teach children about sex, birth control and their own bodies, and the rise only happened after Bush implemented the abstinence-only education requirements to schools that wanted federal funding?

So if they teach abstinence, why aren't kids listening? These educators need to turn on the TV. When every channel and every song and every movie and every one of their peers presents sex as the best thing in the world, and their own hormones are telling them to do it as well, it's natural that they should give in. Abstinence-only educators tell kids not to have sex but they don't teach them HOW to not have sex.

Yeah, I know, that seems pretty obvious, right? You just don't have sex. But you'd be stunned how many kids think that anal sex isn't sex (when it has a higher rate of spreading STDs than vaginal sex) and withdrawal isn't sex (when it has a phenomenally high failure rate and there is a chance of getting pregnant even from pre-ejaculate) and that even if they do have sex, nothing can go wrong if their partner is "clean" and they use some ridiculous form of supposed birth control like douching afterwards (which pushes the sperm further into the vagina, thus increasing chance of pregnancy).

And parents don't teach their kids. Some do, sure, but most don't. They wait for the wedding day to tell their daughters to "just bear it" or slip their sons a dirty magazine and hope they figure it out. As a result, many women AND men think that women pee out of their vagina. I'm sorry, but there is no excuse for that kind of ignorance about human anatomy after a kid goes through twelve years of school. Not to mention how few people can find the clitoris, even their OWN clitoris.

So clearly we need comprehensive sex ed. Including, naturally, abstinence. BUT failure rates of abstinence should be quoted (while the perfect-use pregnancy rate of abstinence is 0%, the actual-use pregnancy rate-- the rate at which women get pregnant when they claim they have been abstinent or when they have taken an abstinence pledge-- is more like 54%), and even more importantly, kids should be taught that masturbation, athletics, yoga, etc can help alleviate desire to have sex and help maintain sexual abstinence. Part of that should be explaining how masturbation works, because while you would think it's a no-brainer, you'd be surprised.

We also need to teach kids about pornography, since they already have access to it. Kids need to understand pornography they might see and be taught to separate the realistic, good stuff-- usually amateurs-- from the fake, degrading, horrible porn one can find on the internet.

What else should all kids know, HAVE to know, about sex before graduation?

-Their own biology and the biology of the opposite sex, structure, terminology, function, and how to locate every single sexual part that is on the outside. This should include erogenous zones, etc.

-How attraction works and sexual orientation as understood by science.

-What, exactly, sex is; the advantages and disadvantages of having sex at various points in one's life, the different kinds of sexual intercourse, sexual outercourse,and foreplay.

-What consent is, what rape is, what gray area scenarios are and how to avoid them, what drug-induced rape is, what statutory rape is (including local laws), what intimate partner rape is, why rapes happen, laws about rape, and what someone should do if they are raped.

-What STDs are, how they are transmitted, symptoms, treatments, cures, and prevention with focus on abstinence and condom use, testing, and abolishing common myths

-What pregnancy is and how, biologically, a person can become pregnant; what sexual activities can result in pregnancy; why it's a good idea to wait to become pregnant until you are financially secure and independent; what are the best ways to prevent pregnancy (birth control); what are the worst ways to prevent pregnancy (myths); how to take a pregnancy test, what to do if you are pregnant (discussion of giving a kid up for adoption, abortion, or raising a kid on one's own with a LOT of help from the community and family).

-What to do if they want to become sexually active and how to know when they are ready.

-What to discuss with any and every sexual partner, like consent, age, contact information in case of a problem, STDs testing history, birth control discussion, and a discussion of limits (ie "I don't do anal").

-All about relationships, including what happens and what they should do if a relationship has problems or becomes abusive
.

When a sex ed class has all of that before a kid graduates or is able to drop out of school, I will consider it to be comprehensive. And I guarantee we would see immediate positive results-- fewer STDs, fewer date rapes, fewer teen pregnancies, maybe even fewer divorces and more tolerance over all-- if such a program could be reliably implemented with good teachers.

16 comments:

Lexcen said...

I'm shocked to read people are telling kids that condoms cause cancer. Obviously Catholics. I'm even more surprised to learn that kids think anal penetration isn't sex. I guess Bill Clinton started that project. BTW, are you studying to become a sex counselor? It seems that the world needs them more than ever.

Basiorana said...

I'm looking to be a gynecologist or general practitioner, actually. But I'll probably have the task of explaining a lot of this stuff to young people anyway.

Frida said...

100% agreed.

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