On July 11th, 2018 Doug Ford’s government canceled the current Sex Education curriculum for schools in Ontario and reverted to the other curriculum which was last updated in 1998. The question we should be asking is, “Do we trust parents to talk to their kids about sex?” Why should we be asking this? Because the current curriculum doesn’t give kids the information they so desperately need and so we are relying entirely on parents to give that information.
I listened to a lot of people debating this issue and on the conservative & church going side, the main point being repeated is that they don’t want school teaching kids (wrongly) about sex when this is clearly the responsibility of parents. Well, do you trust conservative and church going parents to have multiple, open and free, comfortable discussions about all the nitty gritty details about sex? Do you even think they know what they are talking about?
Personally, if I had kids, yeah I think I would be able to teach them about sex far better than the school system. But I am 1 in 100 000 easily – and know way more about sex than the average parent. Especially church going parents. Sure, I may be biased against church going folks just because my dealings with them have shown them to be, time and again, woefully misinformed about sex. So them passing down their ‘knowledge’ seems highly problematic.
For example, I’ve talked to people at church (yes, I do go to church) and the feeling is that 1) homosexuality should not even be mentioned at school 2) 14-16 is a good age to ‘have the talk’ about sex 3) abstinence is the best way and ideally one should avoid sex until marriage 4) parents have the responsibility to teach their kids everything they need to know about sex.
Let’s analyze this a little, shall we?
1) homosexuality should not even be mentioned at school
If you are growing up in a highly religious household and you happen to be homosexual you will probably feel quite isolated. Myself, growing up I didn’t even know that ‘bisexual’ was an option – I thought that people were either 100% straight or 100% gay. This lead to a LOT of confusion as I couldn’t possibly like guys because I really liked girls. A better education would have saved a lot of mental anguish and confusion. Worse, if you are fully gay in a household that teaches you that your core sexuality is an evil choice and a sin…you are far more likely to commit suicide. Thanks mom and dad. Maybe now you’d prefer to have better education in school?
2) 14-16 is a good age to ‘have the talk’ about sex
The struck down curriculum was ‘age inappropriate’ and taught kids in grade one the names of body parts. Obviously grade 1 is far too young to learn the names of their own body parts. A six year old should never be allowed to look at themselves because they just aren’t ready for that yet.
The simple truth is kids are exposed to pornography now between the ages of 8 and 13 for the majority of kids in Ontario. If you don’t talk to them about sex before that – porn is going to be their very first education about sex. Also, a lot of kids start having sex at or before the age of 14. Guess what mom and dad, if you wait till your kids have already had sex before having ‘the talk’ you have totally missed the boat. Hell, you can teach your already pregnant daughter about contraception if you want, but I think its too late.
The fact is, parents often underestimate their children’s sexuality and never want to admit to themselves that their little darling is already a sexual being. This parental denial is common and totally not helpful. Again speaking from experience here: I had ‘the talk’ with my parents after I had my first sexual experience. It was awkward as hell and worse I had to pretend I knew nothing about sex when I wasn’t even a virgin. Sure, some people don’t have sex till marriage and it’s okay to educate them later about such things…but assuming that all kids are late bloomers is planning for disaster.
3) abstinence is the best way and ideally one should avoid sex until marriage
Many conservative and religious parents believe that abstinence is the best path – but this is in complete denial of what kids these days are actually doing. More that 50% of ‘children’ in Ontario have lost their virginity before the age of 15. Considerably more have had some sort of sexual encounter. You can preach abstinence all you want, but in the United States, the states that teach abstinence the most have by far the highest rates of teenage pregnancies as well as sexually transmitted infections. Personally, I would rather arm children with the truth than see them damaged or teen-aged parents.
Also, teaching them about sex doesn’t mean they are going to have sex. They are going to have sex or not regardless. But teaching them will improve their experience and hopefully help them to successfully navigate this rite of passage with minimal life-altering damage.
4) parents have the responsibility to teach their kids everything they need to know about sex.
Finally, lets address the elephant in the room. Parents might feel they have the responsibility to teach their kids everything about sex, but they are not going to! Most parents are either a) reluctant to teach their kids b) to nervous and awkward to teach them effectively c) uniformed about sexual facts d) unapproachable as teachers or e) any combination of the above.
Seriously, think about how comfortable you would be teaching your child about masturbation? Would you be so comfortable that they’d learn it’s a totally natural part of life and everybody does it? Would you teach them it feels great and is one of the best natural stress relievers which will substantially improve their overall health? Or… would you be guilty and subconsciously transmit your own shame about masturbation onto your children?
Yeah, think about the glorious 1950’s where sex wasn’t taught in school and parents taught their kids to be shameful about their natural desires…why would we want to return to that?
More importantly, a lot of sex education is NOT the nuts and bolts biology of the act. Knowing that the penis goes in the vagina and squirts semen to impregnate the female is sweet fuck-all about what you need to know about sex! That’s like explaining how a 4-stroke engine works and then handing a kid the keys to your car. “Best of luck on the highway, buddy!”
Human sexuality is one of the most complex parts of our existence and a lot of adults haven’t figured it out yet. Yeah, those same ones that are wanting to explain sex to their kids themselves. But how many parents would include ideas like ‘negotiating consent with their partner’ into their talk? How about all the other intricacies of sex beyond the simple biology of it. How many parents are equipped to explain comfortably the way to pleasure and truly enjoy their partner and themselves during the sexual act? Hell, nobody even mentioned to me that lube is absolutely essential when using a condom!! I didn’t even know what lube was and I damn near ripped my virgin girlfriend in two – and she bled the entire next day. Thanks, woe-fully inadequate sex ed.
So many parents are deeply uncomfortable with the topic themselves and it seems so unfair to the kids to saddle them with their parents failings. That deep discomfort in explaining sex will ensure that the topic is broached all of 1 time, badly explained, and left with the parent feeling they did a far better job than they actually did. If you are religious and conservative, ask yourself this, “How many times have you openly and honestly discussed sex with your own parents?” and “Why do you think you are so knowledgeable about sex?”
Myself, I regularly read scientific papers about sex and I enjoy researching the topic. I’ve taught workshops on a variety of sexual topics and I am very confident I can authoritatively answer any question any child could throw my way – and even I feel a bit awkward about discussing sex with children, I still worry that my own societal hangups will be transmitted to the younger generation. I have taught my much younger brother about sex and I am speaking from experience…it is way harder than it seems. And that’s a younger brother and I am confident as can be about my knowledge. If I have struggled with it, I think the vast majority of parents are going to fail miserably and leave this younger generation uninformed, misinformed and under-prepared. I am not willing to accept that outcome and I do not trust the vast majority of parents with this sensitive topic. This next generation in Ontario is going to suffer if we allow this rollback in sexual education – and this is guaranteeing that porn will be the primary sex ed that kids receive. And our kids deserve better than that.