January 12, 2004

Let's Talk About Sex

One of my daily reads, Mitch Berg, went off on a tirade about sexual education in public schools and how it basically doesn't work. I don't begrudge him his position, simply his conclusions.

I'm biased here, I'll admit it. After all, I not only come from a public school system that taught sex ed, my father was the teacher. Granted, having one's own father as his sexual education teacher resulted in a string of embarrasing classes ("now, when my wife and I decided to try for Ryan here"), but the students came out of those classes with the ability to put their raging hormones into context.

There's a knee jerk reaction when it comes to sex ed, and it's a reaction predicated on the unconscious belief that sex ed is, in fact, a how-to manual of sexual positions and the right combination of flowers and wine to best ensure getting laid. Well, I can't speak for all sex ed programs nationwide. I can only speak with authority on my own experience. And, my own experience made me extraordinarily aware of the wider ramifications of sexual activity.

We learned about sexually transmitted diseases. We learned about the physical make-up of the male and female reproductive systems. We learned about contraceptives. We learned about pregnancy. And, yes, we learned about abstinence. And, I'll tell you something, for a lot of my classmates, that sexual education class was the only time in their lives someone actually spoke to them frankly, honestly and empirically about sex. I mean, let's face it, even the most perfect parents in the world get squeamish and evasive when it comes to discussing sex with their children. Hell, I'm 28, and my mother still doesn't want to read about me having sex with ANYONE. My father doesn't want to read it much either, and he's a SEX ED TEACHER.

Mitch has this to say: Second - abstinence only DOES work. It's all that is taught in Catholic schools; no contraception, no abortion, no sex. And students at Catholic schools have a lower rate of teenage pregnancy than public schools.

Yeah, well, in an environment that practically chastises you for holding your wang while you pee, eventually you'll get it nailed through your head that sex is the biggest sin imaginable.

That's because "sex ed" in the Catholic school doesn't divorce the physical and moral components of sexuality - something no public school in his day and age is allowed to do.

Yes, because public schools have an obligation to teach a student MORALS, seeing as how the parents are apparently incapable of doing so.

Right. But we don't have a thoughtful society. We have Hollywood, and pop music, "Bratz" dolls, TV, and even the Disney Channel starting to sexualize kids younger and younger. We have teeny idol Britney Spears playing cat-and-mouse with virginity while living with fellow teen idol Justin Timberlake. We have Christina Aguilera glamourizing sluttiness. We have President Clinton, glamourizing and legitimizing the Lothario. We have innumerable examples of sex as glamorous, powerful, fun, grown-up - and very few of pregnancy, of single parenthood, of the options that pregnancy closes down.

Exactly. And THAT'S why sexual education, not just an abstinence-only approach, is so critically important. Rather than telling kids "don't do it," and then sending them out in a society that says "DO IT, DO IT, DO IT," why not arm them with the knowledge of what can and does happen if they DO IT, DO IT, DO IT." Which is exactly what a good sexual education program does and the type of program I learned under.

Posted by Ryan at January 12, 2004 11:15 AM
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