24.2.10

Let's Talk about Sex . . . Maybe?

Have you heard the news? Apparently, teaching children that it's okay to want to wait to have sex and that sex brings with it some dangerous implications is more effective at preventing teen pregnancy and STDs than showing them how to use condoms and sending them on their merry way. Shocking isn't it? Of course these results are based on a rather small study that only lasted 24 months, certainly not a longitudinal study of a huge population. Still, doesn't it seem like common-sense?


I'm a liberal minded gal but I've got to admit I'm not comfortable with the direction sex-education is taking in our school systems. I'm 100% behind gay marraige, have signed all the protests against Uganda's anti-homosexuality bill, have written a few letters, believe in the freedom of choice, etc, etc. Yes I'm a Christian, but I'm also a human being - and I'm only Anglican for crying out loud, we're probably as close to agnosticism as you can get while still being members of a church.

 
But I've gotta say, something stinks in sex ed. And no, it's not the lube samples they show the preteens.

 
What was it like when you were growing up? For us, there was "health" class. Until Grade 7 or 8 (about 14 or 15), sex was hardly discussed. Then all of a sudden it took over every health class. Most girls I knew thought 16 was when you were "supposed" to lose your virginity. (Most girls I knew were much older when they did, however. ) Sometimes I wonder if we thought we should be having sex at 16 because they were teaching us how to do it safely at 15.

 
Don't get me wrong. I'm not one of these abstinence-only-wait-until-you're-married-there's-no-room-in-our schools-for-sex conservatives. In fact, the abstinence-only program in the above mentioned study is exactly how I'd like to see sex-ed approached.
It did not take a moralistic tone, as many abstinence programs do. Most notably, the sessions encouraged children to delay sex until they are ready, not necessarily until married; did not portray sex outside marriage as never appropriate; and did not disparage condoms.
Source: The Washington Post: "Abstinence Only Programs Might Work, Study Says" Rob Stein, Feb 02, 2010
The problem is, abstinence-only has gotten such a bad rap by the right-wing Christian Bush adminsitration's application of it that no one wants to admit it could just work. In the study cited, among the 12-14 year olds followed, in the abstinence group almost 10% fewer children had engaged in intercourse than in the safe-sex group. And guess what? There was no difference in condom usage. Yes, you can teach abstinence without making children ignorant of condoms!

My kids are 5, 3 and 1. The one-year-old doesn't say much on any topic and the three year old follows her older brother's lead. So when our five year old asked how his baby brother got in my "belly," we explained to him. He knows that boys have penises and girls have vulvas or vaginas. So we told him that when a man puts his penis in a woman's vagina these little sperm come out (we said they looked like really small fish) and that inside the woman's uterus - or where the baby grows - is a little tiny egg. And sometimes the little fish meet the little egg and a baby starts to grow. I can only imagine the mental images this produced for the poor children, fishes and eggs inside of them! But my son's first question was "why would he put his penis there?" So I told the truth. "Because it feels good." And then I added that though it felt good, it could make a baby and so we expected that he wouldn't do something like that until he was an adult and could care for a baby.

And that's the extent of what I think he needs to know about sex right now. And the extent of what he wants to know. He knows that touching his penis feels good (he's such a little wanker) but we've explained to him that it's not appropriate to do in public or in front of other people - I told him it was like peeing or pooing in front of someone else: very rude. He also knows that sometimes men like men instead of women and women like women instead of men. We haven't gone into specifics about how men and men act together and how women and women act together because, you see, my son never asked about SEX. All he wanted to know was how babies were made.

I don't think I'm a prude; I think I'm pragmatic and instead of looking at politics I'm looking at children's development. Five and Six year olds are not interested in sex. I've never met one that was. They couldn't give a fig what Mommy and Daddy are doing in the bedroom. They're not even curious. They are curious about their bodies and about relationships and about babies.



However, if the UNESCO sex ed curriculim  is adopted by all schools, five year olds will be learning that:
  • Forced marraiges and child marraiges are harmful and are usually illegal: Yes, I agree, but does my five year old need to know that right now? He still thinks he can marry his sister, me, and four of his classmates. Apparently four is the limit, however, and there's trouble in his Kindergarten class cause he's already married three and there are another two that want to wed him. Plus they want a joint wedding.
  •  Families, individuals, peers, and communities are sources of information about sex and gender: Again, nothing wrong with this statement in general; but I'm frankly not prepared for my five year old to see his peers and community as sources of information about anything. There's plenty of time for him to rebel against our beliefs and values in ten year's time. For now can we please just let the parents lay the foundation?
  • Inappropriate touching, unwanted and forced sex (rape) are forms of sexual abuse: I'm sorry . . . did I just see the word "rape" in a five year old's school books?
  • Puberty is a time of physcial and emotional change that happens as children grow and mature: Puberty, eh? Look, he's still trying to understand the concept that he can outgrow the pants he wore last year. Really, do we need to be bringing up puberty already. Oh, I know, we teach them about puberty when their five so that we have time to teach them about menopause when they're twelve!
  • Everyone has the right to decide who can touch their body, where, and in what way: No, I'm sorry. He does not have that right yet. If he did have that right he'd be letting everyone and sundry see his penis. He's quite enamoured with it and proud of it, you know. And he'd be telling me I don't have the "right" to wipe his face or make him take eyedrops.
  • People kiss, hug, touch, and engage in sexual behaviours with one another to show care, love, physical intimacy and to feel good: Gee whiz, why don't we mention prostitutes and porn actors that have sex for money? Right now my child understands sex as a way to make a baby. That's because he's interested in babies, not sex. Apparently, though it's necessary that he know all the reasons why someone might have sex and also that sex seems to be on a level playing field with kissing, hugging, and touching.
  • There's also a whole section on HIV/AIDS that I'm not quite comfortable with. Again, the boy is not ready. He's still trying to get a grasp on this whole concept of germs and how we spread them. I don't think he's ready for the specifics of any disease or virus, whether that be influenza, HIV, or cancer.
  • ALL italicised sentences are direct quotes from the UNESCO Sex Ed Curriculim Guidelines for 5-8 Year olds
I could go on. There's more. There's good stuff in there too, like people shouldn't be made fun of, and everyone has rights. You know, the things we learned in "health" or "social studies" when we were young . . .

Am I a prude? Am I too controlling of my five year old? Isn't that a ridiculous question? I mean he's five; shouldn't I be the one in control? Is it wrong to want to wait until my child expresses questions or concerns or interest in sex before I go telling him all about it?

And on a complete other tangent, how is it that the schools that have such limited time for physical education, music, arts and crafts, field trips, etc are going to be able to find time to teach this 26 page curriculim guide?

What do you think of Kindergarten Sex Ed?

3 comments:

  1. kindergarten sex ed is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard of! how the hell is a 5 year old supposed to understand any of those concepts? And christ, what will their little minds do with all this extra knowledge - they can barely keep the days of the week straight in their head how are they supposed to understand rape, puberty and forced marriage?

    I am by no means a prude, at all. but that is inappropriate for a 5 year old - I can see a good case for starting to introduce some of this stuff at 8-10 and introduce only to give them an idea that some of these concepts exist rather than chucking it all on them at age 15.

    If someone were to try to teach my 5 year old this I would take them out of kindergarten. I don't think my child's brain needs this stuff floating around in it at that age. I can see it doing a lot more harm than good.

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  2. As a mother of three (11, 6, and 3) I have found even very small children to be extremely curious about 'where babies come from'. Like yourself I have always tried to be honest in an age appropriate way.

    As a woman who works with women and children in domestic abuse service provision, I also know that really quite small children are able to grasp the concept of their body belonging to them, and the fact that they do have a right to say who can touch them, and when and where. The sexual abuse of children is horrendously common I'm afraid - one in four kids will experience it at some level, and it is absolutely vital that we give kids the skills and the knowledge to protect themselves to the best of their ability.

    Again this has to be done in an age appropriate and sensitive manner, I would not be talking to a five year old about rape for example. But we do talk about 'O.K'. touching and 'not O.K.' touching. We talk about the 'uh oh' feeling you can get when something doesn't feel quite right, and we encourage children to speak up to parents or another trusted adult if they're not sure about something. We ask 'where is it o.k. for someone to touch you? Where might it not be o.k? Which kinds of touches are o.k? Which are not?

    This does nothing to ruin a childs innocence. Sexual abuse does ruin it though. Forever.

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  3. When will common sense in life prevail. Honestly-talking with 5 years old about all that!

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