I live in Ontario, Canada and for the last couple of days, the news has been filled with all kinds of furor about the new sex ed curriculum that will be coming as part of the Phys. Ed. and Health curriculum for Ontario public schools. My facebook feed has also been filled with staunch objections. I don't have anything definitive to say and I, for one, won't take a stand until I have seen it myself. I have seen these things blown out of proportion so many times. This post is just a few musings about my feelings about it all and I claim no expertise at all.
First of all, this makes me sad. At the root of it, do I think kids should have to be educated about the risk of sexting at age 12 or to know about oral and anal sex at age 13? No way. I feel like I am 90 years old when I say that truly, I feel as if childhood has been lost to a large degree. What happened to innocence? Actually, we know exactly where it went. We all became addicted to violent and sexualized t.v. shows and we allowed advertisers to grab hold of sex to sell things and we allowed the internet to take hold in our lives and our families before we had worked out how to cope with it. The thought of my daughter sitting through talk about oral sex in grade 7 really saddens and sickens me.
On the other hand, the thought of my daughter ENGAGING in oral sex or anal sex at age 13, falling for the lie that it's not sex because there is no vaginal penetration or that it doesn't mean anything saddens and sickens me more. I pray that I will be able to raise a daughter with enough pride and self esteem that she won't be so quick to fall for manipulation from a boy who has no idea what he's asking for. I pray that my son will have the grasp of the value of the young women around him and that he won't assume that they are there for his gratification. One of my greatest aims of parenting is that I am able to raise a daughter who has enough respect for herself that she will understand that she is a precious gift to be cherished and not some freebie to be given away at will and that my son will be a man who honours and respects women. I hope that when each of my children does reach the stage of life of being sexually active in a healthy way, that each will have the wisdom and self confidence to demand that he or she be treated with respect and love, that he or she be worthy of commitment and that each understands the impact of what he or she is giving away.
I think, for me, that's the scariest part in all of this. I would like to think that my child will have the good sense to make wise choices and to understand the impact of those choices. Sadly, the adolescent brain is not exactly proven to choose wisely or to think beyond today. I wish that my 18 year old self (who wasn't a big risk taker, thankfully), was able to make my decisions with my 42 year old brain and understand the impact of the decisions I would make. We all know, though, that is not the case and so many lives are ruined by rash decisions made without understanding.
That's where this new curriculum comes in. It's uncomfortable for us because frankly, kids that young shouldn't need to be told about this stuff. They should be able to be kids whose young bodies are not seen as sexual objects (beyond simply as boys and girls). They should be able to exist without being seen as potential objects of gratification by others. They should be able to dress the way that they want without it being seen as suggestive or to dance with abandon or to have friendships with the opposite sex without there being risks and overtones at 9. Unfortunately, though, we've given away their right to that innocence. When we continued to allow the proliferation of media aimed at younger and younger audiences that are filled with overtly sexual images, we forced our children to be at risk. When we allowed advertisers unfettered access to our children and programming and toys aimed at children that is overly sexualized, when we DIDN'T have the conversations with some children and yet allowed them to see and not to understand, when we made idols of men who do not respect women to become cultural icons and we made excuses for sexual violence and finally, when we stopped talking about the moral ramifications of our decisions, we took away their right to innocence. Finally, when we allowed our own discomfort with topics related to sexuality to allow us to refuse to speak about it in our families and in our venues where we discuss our morality, such as our churches, we took away the innocence of our children. The worst part is that even if we have been so careful in our own
families, as soon as our children are out in the world with other kids,
they are not safe from the decisions of other families.
My daughter, at 7, comes home and quotes her teachers to me all the time, often spouting things that I have told her for years. If the curriculum does teach my child to know the risks of her decisions, teaches my son about the specifics of consent and helps them to understand the nature of the law (and that minors cannot give consent to adults), I will feel relief. At least it's a starting point for safety and our conversations about waiting, monogamy and a lifetime commitment can build upon that basic foundation.
It also makes me glad I teach kindergarten so I don't have to get into this with my students. Now, if I can only figure out how to talk about this at home with my own kids...