Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Sex: Let's Get With the Program


Kids are gonna screw.

Most of 'em, anyway.

So why do so many parents pretend this isn't so, can't be so, and force schools into teaching that it mustn't be so? I mean, everybody knows the best way to keep a teenager from doing something is to tell her not to.

Sex education is seriously deficient even in 'progressive' curriculums. For the most part, it's a glorified anatomy class. Maybe the idea is to bore kids to death with sex. Stripped -- or rather, not "stripped", that's too raunchy--detached from all its emotional and psychological cues, a teacher can turn sex into a clinical, dry lecture almost devoid of really useful content.

Parents are probably going to cringe at this. I'm suggesting that, at least by high school, sex ed should actually cover pornography. That means viewing it. In school. I'm not kidding.

By the time kids are in high school, they've looked at porn. I absolutely guarantee it. Some of them have looked at a lot of porn. I know that parents want to make this didn't happen, but let's get real here. What they're really doing is ensuring that their children's first exposure to sex is unsupervised, unregulated, and almost certainly staged to ensure they see all the worst aspects of sex. Does this make sense to anybody?

I'm really not kidding about porn in class. There are so many important things we can glean from porn and how it differs, or ought to differ, from actual sex. We can talk about the objectification of women. We can talk about the objectification of men (and if you think that doesn't happen in porn, watch a steady diet of it and compare the number of times you see a dick to the number of times you see an unobstructed view of a male face.) We can talk about orgasms, how many women simply can't orgasm from penetrative sex alone. We can talk about the emotional content of sex, which is vastly different from the emotional content of porn. We can talk about different forms of sex, foreplay (Groucho Marx, leering: "and the aftplay was pretty good, too!").   We can talk about different sexualities in a frank, no-nonsense manner.

Tell you what I'd put on the board the first class:

"We weren't making love; we were fucking. Nothing wrong with that, just not enough right with it."--Spider Robinson

I was bushwhacked by sex, my first time. I was almost nineteen--much older than the usual, for guys--but emotionally immature. I recall thinking, afterwards, is this all there is? Trying to adopt that swagger that says "I just became a man" and failing, because all I'd done was have sex. Worse, I'm pretty sure my partner felt the same way. But I didn't think to talk to her about it, and our sex life after that was perfunctory. She actually apologized to me, months into our relationship, about leaving my 'needs' unsatisfied. That's how she viewed sex...or at least sex with me. I'm pretty sure she later found a better sex life with someone else. I hope so, anyway. I sure did.
That 'needs' comment affected me, too. Hearing it, I allowed myself to feel, for years that I did in fact need sex. A couple of years of celibacy before I met Eva cured me of that affliction, but before that it led to some poor life choices, let's just leave it at that. With a proper sex education, I might have been better able to put sex in context sooner. (I'm not blaming anyone but myself for those poor life choices, though: they were mine and mine alone.)

Sex, as it stands in high schools right now, is a badge of honour for the guys and a badge of shame for the girls. This does nobody any good. Your entire value as a human being revolves around the sex you engage in or don't engage in. It leads guys into cajoling sex out of girls who are not exactly willing to give it. It leads girls into acute anxiety...what if we do "it"? what if I LIKE it? And it leaves both boys and girls unprepared for the emotional bond that sex creates. It has at least made inroads in addressing homosexuality and bisexuality, but there remain many  misconceptions about both of those -alities.  Given that up to one in ten students is gay or bi and that probably closer to nine in ten have at least experimented with someone of the same sex, this is something that needs to be talked about at some length. Of course you have to work out your sexuality on your own, but it helps to have a clearly defined framework to do it with. In the aftermath of my same-sex experience, I had to reconcile the fact I enjoyed it with the reality that I had never looked at any man, including that one, and thought "I gotta have that". Oddly enough, it was that experience more than any other that drove home to me just how emotional sex is. The emotional content was staggering....never have I so clearly felt both halves of "I love this person, but not in that way". I had to build a framework to hold both sides of that, and I had to build it pretty much from scratch.

There are many people who are acutely uncomfortable with the idea of sex being taught in schools, by adults, to 'children'. There's this undercurrent of pedophilia and pederasty about it. This really needs to go away. There's a vast difference between talking about sex and having sex, and many scientific studies have shown what many parents simply fail to grasp: the more you talk to kids about sex, the less likely they are to actually  have sex. And when they do, it's overwhelmingly with protection. The United States, with its abstinence-only sex programs in many states, leads the world in teen pregnancies and abortion. Enact an abstinence-only program and STI rates actually go up.

So let's talk about sex. Let's really get into the nuts and bolts of it. Not to do so is a disservice to teens wrestling with adult issues for the first time in their lives.

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