Sex Ed Fret

A recent “Last Week Tonight” with John Oliver highlighted the lack of standards for teaching our children about their bodies and how our species reproduces. Yes, it’s true that while parents, teachers, politicians and others debate the Common Core, no one is talking about the lack of standardization amongst various sex education curricula.

We use sex to sell everything from fast food to insurance and yet we won’t standardize sex education?   It’s a demoralizing double standard where we use half-naked women to sell hamburgers but consider it verboten to teach children how to respond to real lust toward another human. We teach abstinence, claiming that ignorance is bliss when it comes to sex and wonder why repressed pedophiles turn up on Ashley Madison?  What is wrong with this country?

“Sex is wonderful thing.  Do it and I’ll kill you,” is how I started ‘The Talk’ when my older son was in high school. I went on to explain that while his little head might be ready, his big head wasn’t, and I didn’t want him to get into a situation that he couldn’t handle and which could scar him emotionally – for life.  Besides, he was too damned young for sex; neither of us was ready to deal with a sexually active high school kid. Sure, some of them may be driving and think of themselves as young adults when they’re in high school – especially those who are under my roof – but they are still kids who need information and guidance about sex and all other aspects of life. We send them to school to learn information and frameworks within which to organize what they learn. Why is it that we get so squeamish when it comes to talking about our bodies and how babies are made? Yes, I think that high schoolers are just too damned young for sex. But some of them will be whether I like it or not so let’s teach them how babies are made so that we don’t pile more negative consequences on to their impulsive, (in my opinion, bad), choices.

I’ve used the correct terms for genitalia with all of the children – I called their noses, noses so why would I call a penis or vagina by a euphemistic name that sends the message that this body part should never be discussed? Trust me, the earlier you teach ‘em the terminology, the easier adolescence will be – and the less influence their friends will have on their views on sex.  Because while I sincerely believe in schools teaching children about the biology of sex – with a value-free, factual curriculum – I want to indoctrinate my children with my view of sex: that it’s a great thing that they should enjoy in the future – say in a decade or three.  But seriously, the best advice I ever got was to teach my kids about reproduction before it came up in the science curriculum lest I not be their primary source of this important information.
There is no shame in having private parts nor in touching them, but they’re called private for a reason – they should be covered in public and explored – without shame or derision – in private.  Shame is what child molesters use to prey upon their victims by shaming them into silence and more abuse.  Shame is not what young people should feel about their sexual desires.

As George Michael serenaded us, “Sex is natural – sex is good/Not everybody does it/But everybody who [is a consenting adult with heart, mind and loins that are in synch and thus are ready and willing] should.” Why can’t we teach our children this?

Conversations about sex may not be easy – there will likely be an abundance of blushing, stammering and staring at the floor.  So what? Just because something is awkward or hard, doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile.  Parents try to relax; you don’t want your anxiety about ‘The Talk’ to be your children’s take away –  you want to pass on your values about sex. Children, well, your bodies are changing so quickly, you’re likely not comfortable inhabiting them let alone discussing anything about them.  Take heart, kids, if the adults in your life do their jobs right, you’ll grow to be comfortable in your own skin – hopefully sooner rather than later, but likely not for a few years yet.

Let’s divide and conquer this important task; leave the teaching of clinical details to the science teachers and school psychologists and the conversations about values to parents.  This sounds like a reasonable method to enable parents and kids to talk about sex openly, frankly and without too much embarrassment – somewhere other than the school yard.

I’m not suggesting that parents and children should dish about their respective sex lives. They most definitely should not.  We are not our kids’ friends – we are their parents. Once, a few years ago, I walked into my son’s post college apartment and was pleased to find condoms on his nightstand. I smiled. Neither of us said a word. Because sex is not something your mother wants to hear about once our children are mature enough to have it. I used to bathe those parts – before they had hair. We don’t need to have those conversations any more.  It’s enough for me to know that my son heard me all those years ago.  Thank goodness that he believes that sex is natural, good – and requires protection.

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