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Let's Talk about Sex (Ed).
February 3, 2009 9:19 AM   Subscribe

Let's Talk About Sex. Challenging the convention that Americans are reluctant to have sexual health issues taught in school, the surveys show that most parents, along with educators and students themselves, would expand sexual education courses and curriculum. In the meantime, some churches are offering their own curriculum, based on guidelines developed by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States.
posted by lunit (29 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
The obsession suburban ninnies have with sex and how to be most impressively politically correct about sex is dumb.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 9:46 AM on February 3, 2009


Not giving everyone access to accurate and comprehensive sex education, complete with information on psychological issues, birth control, and disease prevention is dumber.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:54 AM on February 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


It never fails to amaze me that I was exposed to very comprehensive sex ed back in 1972: STDs, birth control, basic anatomy. We didn't just learn about where babies come from, we learned about anal sex and oral sex and heavy petting. Yet more than 30 years later Americans are more prudish than before. Why are we still so afraid of teenage sexuality? Teenagers have sexual feelings, strong sexual feelings. They masturbate and fantasize and experiment and to pretend otherwise is foolish behavior. It astonishes me that some people would rather gamble with their children's futures than give them information on how to prevent STDs and pregnancies. And what is even more astonishing is that the people on school boards, in charge of setting the sex ed policy, were all teenagers themselves at one time.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 10:18 AM on February 3, 2009


On the whole, I believe Americans are not as stupid, socially conservative, and C-C-Christian! as the media tends to portray.

Rather, I suspect the Christian social conservative movement has been phenomenally successful at influencing the media, and equally successful at infiltrating the school boards and other public agencies. By being loud and aggressive, American mullahs exert infuence several orders of magnitude greater than their numbers and knowledge warrant.

One of my dim hopes for the USA this next few years is that the majority finally wakes up and recognizes how their common good has been deeply damaged by the idiocy of the loud-mouthed minority.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:35 AM on February 3, 2009 [9 favorites]


We'd be a healthier society if for one month of the year, one of the warmish ones, we were all required to be naked. You'd see new gym membership rates freakin' explode!
posted by jamstigator at 10:37 AM on February 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yet more than 30 years later Americans are more prudish than before. Why are we still so afraid of teenage sexuality?

AIDS scared the hell out of people (understandably), and the religious right used that fear to create a backlash against sex-ed policies (among other things) that had been growing more sensible. And the Reagan administration went along with because it helped them get in office and stay in office. That's a theory.
posted by jonmc at 10:40 AM on February 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


One of my dim hopes for the USA this next few years is that the majority finally wakes up and recognizes how their common good has been deeply damaged by the idiocy of the loud-mouthed minority.

I'd say that the last election bodes well for that. Religious fanatics ultimately drive most people up the wall.
posted by jonmc at 10:42 AM on February 3, 2009


My first exposure to sex ed was during 6th grade in Catholic school.

I distinctly remember Sister Dyer saying in her thin, nasally voice "...and then the man places his penis in the vagina..." at which point my insides curdled...
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 11:55 AM on February 3, 2009


From the comments:
My parents didn't teach me anything, and the "sex ed" I had in high school in Massachusetts (mid 90s) consisted of the health teacher making us listen to Meatloaf's "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" and showing us slides of genitals infected with STDs.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:56 AM on February 3, 2009


Rather, I suspect the Christian social conservative movement has been phenomenally successful at influencing the media, and equally successful at infiltrating the school boards and other public agencies. By being loud and aggressive, American mullahs exert infuence several orders of magnitude greater than their numbers and knowledge warrant.

Yes, absolutely -- getting on to school boards to hijack public curricula was the Christian right's strategy starting in the '70s, I believe, which began to gain traction in the '80s. Hence the dismantling of proper sex education, as well as the reintroduction of the the bullshit "controversy" over teaching evolution, etc., which in turn I would argue has fostered a general scientific illiteracy that has helped create hostility toward science itself (vaccines are poison! stem cell research kills the babbies!).

All of which may explain why I held it together pretty well through Obama's inaugural address until the point about "restoring science to it's rightful place," at which point I burst into tears of relief to once again have someone in the White House who actually seems to be on board with, you know, the Enlightenment.
posted by scody at 12:07 PM on February 3, 2009 [9 favorites]


On the whole, I believe Americans are not as stupid, socially conservative, and C-C-Christian! as the media tends to portray.

Man, I dunno. I'd love to believe that's true, but at least in my neck of the woods (the land of Strom Thurmond and Bob Jones University), the locals make freepers and lgf-ers look positively mild. I'm sure, though, that many of these attitudes have been actively driven by the "loud-mouthed minority".

Back to sex ed, though, I wonder if we'll ever get to the point where we're actually teach answers to the question so many young person's mind: HOW TO HAVE (GOOD) SEX. Not just "the clitoris has clusters of nerve endings that are blah blah blah" but "here's how to give good head". I mean, do you think the average American guy would rather know a) how to solve quadratic equations, or b) how to give a woman multiple, screaming orgasms? Which would be more likely to contribute to his (and her!) overall happiness?

Considering how important sex is to most people, you'd think we'd be taught a little more than, "uhhhhh figure it out for yourself, kid."
posted by LordSludge at 12:43 PM on February 3, 2009


Back to sex ed, though, I wonder if we'll ever get to the point where we're actually teach answers to the question so many young person's mind: HOW TO HAVE (GOOD) SEX.

Aldous Huxley's Island discusses this point at length. Butter up your lingams!
posted by benzenedream at 1:14 PM on February 3, 2009


secret life of gravy and jonmc

It never fails to amaze me that I was exposed to very comprehensive sex ed back in 1972Yet more than 30 years later Americans are more prudish than before. Why are we still so afraid of teenage sexuality?

AIDS scared the hell out of people (understandably), and the religious right used that fear to create a backlash against sex-ed policies (among other things) that had been growing more sensible. And the Reagan administration went along with because it helped them get in office and stay in office. That's a theory.

since the 1948 SCOTUS decision (mccollum v. board of education) -- which found religious instruction in schools to be unconstitutional -- the reactionary right has been fuming. combine that 25+ years of frustration with roe v. wade, and BOOM! no more sexy sexxx talk at school.

i think it's fabulous that some churches are using SEICUS guidelines to develop their own sex ed classes. i expect it'll be another 20 years or more before we can expect to see something so level-headed in public schools.
posted by CitizenD at 1:29 PM on February 3, 2009


A friend in her early 30s recalls that in the 1980s, schools taught boys about masturbation and wet dreams, while girls learned about menstruation and pregnancy. The unspoken message, as she saw it, was that boys heard about how their bodies could make them feel good, and girls heard about all the messy and inconvenient things their bodies could do.

So true.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 1:38 PM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I had the best in-school sex ed of all my peers. Six months straight of discussion about STIs, pregnancy, sex in relationships, dental dams, condoms on bananas, the works. Fairly light on the gay sex mechanics, but given that the class was taught by my freshman year Religion teacher at a Catholic high school, it was amazingly comprehensive.

She even told us what it was like for her, as a woman having sex with her husband, to orgasm. For a classroom of 13 and 14 yr old kids, that's pretty mindblowing stuff to hear.

(Rock on, Mrs H, wherever you are!)

I'm not sure where this alleged chokehold on all sexual knowledge is happening, but in my experience, even the girls who take chastity pledges know that they're technical virgins if they give blowjobs or do anal.
posted by Grrlscout at 1:54 PM on February 3, 2009


even the girls who take chastity pledges know that they're technical virgins if they give blowjobs or do anal

That's not knowledge — not the kind that counts, anyway. It's a made-up rule for applying an arbitrary label.

What they really need to know is how to be safe and have fun while giving blowjobs and doing anal. And trust me, most school districts aren't teaching 'em that.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:11 PM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would love to see a more drivers-education approach to sex-ed in schools; some sort of grizzled cigar-and-whiskey-voiced kind of pragmatic guy breaking it down as simply as possible:

"Look kids, you're going to have a lot of questions about sex; your curious, and that's great, but the thing is, you gotta be careful. It's like driving on a winter day after a new snow fall, you can slide all around, and have lots of fun, but if you don't know what you are getting into, you may end up crashing into some place you don't want to be. So get to know your equipment, treat it right, be careful that you make sure it's well protected, and you'll probably be fine.

But hey, life is dangerous. So just remember, everything you do carries a chance of something bad coming along with it. Be prepared, know the risks and you'll have a better chance than about 50% of the rest of the planet.

Now, let's look at some of these films so you can get an idea of how this all works..."
posted by quin at 2:14 PM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


(Oh, and Aldous Huxley was a really weird dude. But I guess we knew that already.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:20 PM on February 3, 2009


Of course, the other side of the story is that all of the panic aside, teens are slightly less sexually active now than in the early 90s.

Which, I have to say I was really glad to see the Scheuster quote in the middle of the article pointing out that the earlier puberty of girls should be considered.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:46 PM on February 3, 2009


Clicking through to the guidelines, I have to admit that I breathed a sigh of relief that they include explicit discussion that some people are not heterosexual. I distinctly remember my middle school sex ed text saying that while some people have crushes on members of the same sex, it's just a phase that passes for most, leading to another five years of denial on my part.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:16 PM on February 3, 2009


A friend in her early 30s recalls that in the 1980s, schools taught boys about masturbation and wet dreams, while girls learned about menstruation and pregnancy. The unspoken message, as she saw it, was that boys heard about how their bodies could make them feel good, and girls heard about all the messy and inconvenient things their bodies could do.

For the record, wet dreams are messy and inconvenient.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:18 PM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, Saddlebacking: sad•dle•back•ing \ˈsa-dəl-ˈba-kiŋ\ vb [fr. Saddleback Church] (2009): the phenomenon of Christian teens engaging in unprotected anal sex in order to preserve their virginities.

After attending the Purity Ball, Heather and Bill saddlebacked all night because she’s saving herself for marriage. Unfortunately her parents found out because they got santorum all over the sheets.

Thanks to Dan Savage for once again thoughtfully and usefully expanding the English language.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:22 PM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


In Iceland sex ed is no big deal. To illustrate just how much of a no big deal it is let me tell you this fact about the sex ed class me and my classmates took the winter we were 13 and 14.

It was taught by one of our classmates' mother. She was also the school nurse, so it's not like she just volunteered. However, this was no big deal. Besides the occasional "hurr hurr hurr your mom says it's cool to masturbate" comment the student whose mother taught us about the intricacies of homosexuality, masturbation, herpes etc. got no shit at all (I asked him later and he confirmed my experience). In case you're wondering, bullying is a major problem in Icelandic schools.

Let me repeat: Student whose mother taught him and the rest of us sex ed got barely any shit about it. That's how little a deal sex ed is in Iceland.
posted by Kattullus at 4:30 PM on February 3, 2009


I took the Our Whole Lives curriculum in church when I was in 8th grade. It was what we all loved to hate at that time, but no one even dreamt of dropping out. I secretly loved it the whole time, and I'm pretty sure most of my peers did, too. After that, of course, I was the go-to gal for my friends' questions about sexuality - we didn't have much (or any) sex ed through school, so it was incredibly useful.

Also, both my parents taught the curriculum at different stages. I still have friends who remind me "I learned about sex from your dad!"

My teacher, meanwhile, was my boyfriend at the time's mom. AWKWARD.
posted by lunit at 5:20 PM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


That was a really fascinating article. A lot of it had to do with the author being a high school teacher, I'm sure, and therefore very familiar with the subject. It gave me a much more complex view on sex ed in the US than I had previously (I thought it was mostly absistence-only or "let's scare teens into not having sex"). There was a lot of fascinating bits in the article but I found this from late in the article especially thought-provoking:
In my experience as a high school teacher, I found teens to be more capable of handling mixed messages than adults give them credit for. (They tend to be more disturbed by adult hypocrisy than by ambiguity.) As I interviewed kids for this article, I found many had indeed absorbed a clear, if unintentional, message: Frank discussion of sex makes adults uncomfortable. Robert Angell, a senior at Dover-Sherborn High School, recalls a community-service trip to New Orleans where some of his friends were discussing sex on the plane. A passenger turned around in her seat and asked them to change the subject. "That's why most kids don't talk about sex with adults," Angell says. "They feel like adults are too uncomfortable with it."
I do not have children but I hope that if I have them I'll have the courage to talk frankly to them about sex. School taught me a lot but I wish that my parents had talked to me about it (instead they gave me a book for teens about sex). Admittedly I would have been absolutely mortified at the time.
posted by Kattullus at 6:44 PM on February 3, 2009


I suspect the Christian social conservative movement has been phenomenally successful at influencing the media, and equally successful at infiltrating the school boards and other public agencies. By being loud and aggressive, American mullahs exert infuence several orders of magnitude greater than their numbers and knowledge warrant.

It's not just the Christian right -- it's also the media's audience, whatever their political/religious leaning. People love reading about religion's role in our culture. So, if you're a reporter, how are going to give people what they want? By writing a lot about hardline evangelicals. The sheer quantity of media stories about them gives the impression they're profoundly influential, whether they are or not.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:34 AM on February 4, 2009


And I realized something in some of the commentary around Palin's daughter. I really don't think that Christian conservatives are that concerned about pre-marital sex, so much as extra-marital sex between people who are sexually active with no plans or intentions toward marriage. If Chruch records are accurate, pre-marital sex was widely accepted by the puritans as long as the woman was married before she had her first child.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:12 AM on February 4, 2009


The one element that existed in my high school sex ed program (which was referred to by the students as "Sex with Mrs. Sluyter" [as in "I have to go have..."]) was that the instructor made it clear that no honest question was out of bounds, and if you wanted to write it down because you were too embarrassed to ask directly, that was OK too. Some of my other peers asked some pretty interesting questions, probably not because they were going to try it out, but because they really had no other source of information. I spent most of my time wondering what it was going to be like and basically thinking "and it's never happening while I'm in high school." Prophetic, I was.
posted by plinth at 10:47 AM on February 4, 2009


Comprehensive sex education is the only option. That means including discussions of safe sex (vaginal, anal, oral, manual, etc!). It is shocking to me how many adults are uninformed. There are simple things, like you can get STDs/STIs from oral sex to less obvious things like don't use silicone lubricant with silicone based toys.
If parents teach their children to make good decisions, they should trust them to do that with sex as well. But how can anyone make an informed decision without information?
posted by Ekidnagrrl17 at 8:49 PM on February 4, 2009


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