Although I technically teach English and writing, every year I also end up teaching sex ed. Every year students ask me such terrifying questions as, “I heard this guy jerked off on his back porch, and then a girl in her backyard across the street with her legs open got pregnant. Is that true?” or “Why is anal sex more likely to give you HIV than regular sex?” or the old standby, “If he pulls out before he comes, then you can’t get pregnant, right?”
It seems beyond comprehension that with all the sexual material out in our culture, kids could be confused about how their bodies work, how people get pregnant, and how to use birth control. I can bear witness to the continuing need for explicit sex education. I’m telling you, kids don’t know.
I’m guessing part of the problem is that sex ed is taught by people who won’t discuss sex. I’ve seen that happen. The teacher gives the kids a book and then awkwardly asks for questions. I can’t say that I enjoy discussing sex with my students, but if I can’t suck it up and be frank, then I don’t have any business working with kids.
Everyone needs sex ed except for nuns. (I think they need it too, just to be educated citizens.) Almost everyone has some kind of sex eventually.
Our country’s failure to teach anatomy and the mechanics of sexual activities and birth control qualifies as child neglect, if not child abuse. Using an abstinence-only curriculum, many of our children are left in the dark about how their bodies work or how to prevent pregnancy and disease during sexual activity.
It seems that people who say we should have abstinence-only are usually advocating not abstinence, but abstinence until marriage. Well, how are you supposed to learn about sex then? Is the school going to send you a packet then? Even if your family wants your child to remain abstinent until marriage, your child may eventually need to use condoms within that marriage, right?
I’ll add, even if your family wants your child to remain abstinent until marriage, your child probably will not remain abstinent. Personally, I’d prefer my children never to have sex. I’m hoping to set them on a course toward that nunnery.
The fact is, kids make their own decisions about their sexuality, apart from their parents. Their bodies are their own. Some of the families that are the most conservative and strict are the ones who have kids rushing out to have sex at the first opportunity. They can’t stop them, and they don’t stop them. (See Bristol Palin. Although I hesitate to publicize her further, she is now speaking at abstinence-focused events. Here’s a related link: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/07/opinion/07collins.html?_r=1&em
One of my dear friends, whom I met my first year of teaching, can testify to the extreme blushing I suffered as a result of that anal sex question. I turned bright red and I thought, oh, my God, but I answered the kid’s question anyway.
Even with an appropriate, explicit curriculum that includes discussion of sexual activities, risks, and contraceptives, sex ed teachers have to be carefully observed by administrators. We need to make sure that kids are actually getting to ask questions in a way they feel comfortable, and that they are held accountable for learning the material, just like in any other class.
The role of the public school is not to undermine families’ values, but it is to serve society’s best interests. It is potentially catastrophic for our society to let a bunch of people run around without knowing how women can have sex without getting pregnant.
We can’t let your kid out of public school without knowing about birth control any more than we can let your kid out without knowing the three branches of government. Your kid will be a voter and (although I hate to put it this way) a public health risk.
Finally, let me assure you, the teachers teaching sex ed don’t want your kid having sex any more than you do! Our tone will not be encouraging, but cautionary. We care about your kid, and we have seen the sometimes tragic results of early sexual activity. Also, it completely grosses us out.
The reason you are more likely to contract HIV during anal sex is that the anus is not a self-lubricating place, like the vagina…. I know. We’re blushing now. That’s okay.