Abstinence Only... well, we know it's a crock!
I was reading a Slate article this morning, and it got me to thinking, again, about abstinence only sex-ed. I promise, however that this rant will be different from the last one I wrote about thsi topic. A couple years ago, my oldest child brought home a permission slip. I blogged about it on the blog I kept back then. I dug up that old blog, so I could get the next bit right. Please indulge me, as I quote myself:
“...I received a so-called passive permission slip. This means “if you don't sign it, we can do it; if you do sign, we can't”. This passive slip would allow my son to receive mandated abstinence only sex-education. In a state that rounded out the top five states for teen pregnancy, I am being asked to passively give permission to NOT teach my son how not to knock up some girl by the time they get to high school
I am being asked NOT to ask why, not to question the intelligence of this programme. Instead, I am being made to feel like a terrible person... after all, I am singling my kid out-- not giving permission, signing that slip makes him one of the Others... one of the outsiders. I am marking him as the dreaded Different.”
The actual body of the permission slip is below:
“Dear Parents and Guardians,
Once again, due to popular demand, --- Middle School (Along with Pima Prevention Partnership, a local non-profit organization) is offering your student an opportunity to participate in an Abstinence Education curriculum.
We focus on:
building healthy relationships
the risks of being sexually active (STD's/HIV/pregnancy)
The Abstinence Education program conducts a curriculum that is informative and activity based that will give your student engaging hands-on lessons in developing life skills.
The 6th graders will receive the 8-10 hour curriculum during P.E. Class during 1st semester.
We will be using a passive consent form (permission slip attached). If you choose for our child not to participate, please return the form within three days, and the school will assign an alternative project.
We look forward to offering your student this information. If you have any questions, please contact [these people] of the Abstinence Education program at the Pima Prevention Partnership: [at this number]. (italics in original)
I loved the “by popular demand”, it made me laugh like a maniac! I remember my kid telling me that he, and two other boys were exempted from that class. Three kids, in all of the sixth grade were exempt from “Sex is bad, ummmkay! Don't do it! You'll get the HIV and your penis will fall off/vagina will rot out!” I'm sure there was a fair amount of “ewww, girls have cooties and they're all sluts who will ruin your lives!” too, because Arizona's pretty misogynistic at times (that school was horrific all the way around).
We were talking, as a family, last night. The question came up about how movies and games were rated, and why. So we had to explain to my son that there is a group of closed-minded, panicking people who scream “What about the children?!?!” and so make everything with boobs rated R, but blowing some one's face off with a shotgun is OK for the children, so it's only PG-13. That evolved into a “Yes, America's full of Puritan motherfuckers who want to police everyone's sex life, because they're afraid someone, some where is having fun!”
Then I said, “Remember last Friday, when we were going to Target, and I asked you, 'What do you do, first!' What did you say?”
My oldest two said in unison, and my youngest was half a second behind, “Use a condom every time!”
Then I asked my oldest son, “Do you have any idea how the parents of your peers would say if they knew that you knew what a condom was, and how to use it, how to put it on, what a dental dam is, all that stuff?”
His face did that blanked out teen-aged thinking pose-- they all look brain dead when they think! Then he said, “Probably they'd freak out.”
I know they'd freak out! Several of his friends are LDS, some are RCC and at least one is a JW. These are “good, church kids” who probably had sex-ed that rivalled Arizona’s grand plan. “Make them all so Fucking Ignorant they Have Too Many Babies for Indoctrination into our Cults!” I mean, “sex is bad, don't do it! Girls have cooties! Circle, circle, dot dot...”
Contrast this with my own sexual education, and that of my peers growing up. It wasn't perfect, it was often all fucked up, but we didn't have this “God says No-No!” shit going on (as a rule).
I asked him, "What are the rules about sex?"
He said, "Safe, sane and consensual." Right now, that doesn't mean as much to him, it's not concrete, as it would be to someone who is sexually experienced. But it's a good foundation for when he is engaging in sexual activity.
My mother was sex positive in the weirdest way. Growing up, and until I was about 12, she was very sex positive, as was my grandmother. I've already talked about how they both got Jesus and hypocrisy, and that's when sex turned eeeeeevil!
I knew how babies were made from the time I was little. My mother told me when she was pregnant with my sister and brother, and we had these funny little books from the OB/GYN (they were not “how I was made” but actual little booklets explaining fertilisation, implantation and growth of the foetus, very clinical and very cool! I wish I still had one, but they disappeared when she got God.) I knew the proper names for everything, and used to laugh my head off when I heard someone call their vulva a “pee-pee” or something equally moronic.
I remember once, I would have been about 13 or so, one of the girls in my class miscalculated her period, and when it started at school was unprepared. That happens all the time to high-schoolers, really, our bodies are freaking the fuck out, and even if doesn't know how the cycle's going to go. She whispered from the stall next to me and asked did I Have any pads. “My pee-pee's bleeding, it's that time.”
“Wait, your what?!” It took me a few minutes to know what the fuck she was talking about. “You do realise it's a vagina, and you don't bleed from your ureter, right? Let me go get you one, I know there are some under the sink.” The school I was in at the time was a small church school, so we did have those kinds of supplies, thankfully.
She told her mother that night and I got bawled out the next day by the preacher's wife. Evidently some girls aren't allowed to know the “clinical” names of their bodies, or how in the fuck shit works in there. So I told my mother and grandmother that “those people are crazy!” And every time I heard a cutesy name for genitalia I'd laugh. I stopped trying to hold it in, and went full-on mockery. It wasn't nice of me, and I won't excuse it. I was pretty rude and know-it-all about it. I also knew that I was right, and what were they really going to do, tattle because I laughed at the euphemism “monkey” instead of vulva, or “pee-pee” or “thingy” or “bottom”. Really...
Later on I actually helped educate a bunch of my peers, including girls older than I, and taught them how to sneak the information at the library. It's a damned shame that there was a generation, is a generation, of young women who have to creep into the public library to learn what their bits are called, where they are, and how they work. We're supposed to live in an industrialise country, not some puritanical theocracy.
Which brings my full circle back to my thoughts while reading that article. Kids today are still being taught that “Sexy is bad, mmmkay?! Don't have it, it's icky, and yucky and Baaaad!!!”
And yet these christians who embrace this shit, this anti-science are baffled at the ridiculously high rate of teen pregnancy we have in the USA. They just can't get their heads around it. Literally.
For example, at one of my church's “sister churches” was a young woman, a pastor's kid-- that'd be a church that believes everything you do, and you get together for camp and stuff. It's freaky when it's IFB churches, it's like sibling cults. Anyway, this girl was a camp counsellor when I went to that creepy camp in Garland, Texas. She was the perfect pastor’s daughter; pretty, quiet, modest, sang in choir. People held her up as a role model for us girls.
She was, I think 16 or 17 and went away. She went to stay “with family; she went “somewhere else.” She was knocked the fuck up, and they sent her away because they were ashamed of her. We all knew she was pregnant, her little brother told someone, who told someone. [She came back later (after I'd moved away) and had a new baby and husband! Isn't that sweet!] I remember one girl (remember Katrina, the Jesus will come so I don't have to go to college? Her) say, “I just don't know how that could have happened!”
To which I, my friend Kemmi, and a couple others who knew what the fuck we were talking about said, “Umm, she had unprotected sex, that's what happened. She had sex and some guy got her pregnant.”
Then we had to discuss, in whispers, over the course of several days, that yes, you can get pregnant the very first time, and yes, you can get pregnant on your period, and no, coke douche wont' help, it'll give you a yeast infection. I'm surprised no one suggested taking a tumble down the stairs, except in New Mexico second storeys weren't that common. It was like seeing into the fucking Dark Ages! These girls, many who had had their own periods for several years, had No Idea how to get pregnant, and how to stop it.
It made me determine that I'd never let my kids be ignorant. I'd tell them everything they needed to know. And I have. Even my eight year old knows that sex is special, you share yourself with someone you care deeply for, and you never, ever have sex without a condom. No matter what!
So far at this new middle school neither of my kids have brought home abstinence only slips. My son hasn't had sex-ed at all at school, but I'm sure he could teach it, if he did... not that they'd let him, because he can say condom without laughing (we're still working on penis and vagina, and vulva and testes, though. He snickers pretty hard at those still)
My daughter's in this new girls-rule club thing. It's a study run by University of Arizona, and they're treating it like a club so the girls won't feel like lab rats. They're learning, in depth, about their bodies, at 11, 12 and 13 (6th graders). They're learning about dating, and what is, and isn't, OK I even had to fill out a questionnaire for her with my own opinions on dating, and if it was OK to date more than one person at a time. (She hasn't discussed it with her group yet, they've got AIMS tests this week, but I'm curious. I'm probably the only parent who discussed open-relationships with my 12 year old daughter. Hehehe!)
She also knows that condoms are not optional. She learned last night that if you sleep with someone while you're in high school, he's absolutely tell all his friends about it. They'll know your bra size, your pubic hair preferences and yes, even if you have a birthmark on your ass. She wasn't too thrilled about that, and very surprised, but I'm hoping she'll know enough to choose to wait-- or at least, sleep with decent people. [She knows abortion is a choice, and if you're a kid, it's damned near mandatory to keep you alive! All my children are pro-abortion, but that's a blog for another time.]
My oldest, though, he's still not quite ready for sex. Yes, I'm thankful. He's not quite 15, and I'm not ready, either. I can admit that. He's got the book knowledge. He knows what a rubber is, where it goes, how to put it on, all that. He knows that lube is your friend, and it's OK to use it. He knows that dental dams, or even Saran wrap help protect during oral sex, and are just as important! (I'll teach him the inside-out condom trick here shortly). He knows that sex is an exchange of fluids, with someone, even if it's not penis-in-vagina, and that pregnancy is something to avoid, just as studiously as you avoid the clap.
But he's not to the point he could say, “I love this girl, and although we haven't yet, we're discussing becoming sexually active.” He isn't ready to ask for the “safer-sex basket” that I promised my kids when they're ready for it. He isn't seeing anyone, but he knows when he does, they have to negotiate, talk, discuss and decide exactly what is, and isn't, OK. How far is too far? And when he's ready, he'll get there.
He knows that one of my biggest rules about sex is “If you can't talk about it without being embarrassed, you're not ready”. This is something I have told adults, too, when I get people asking me the weirdest things-- it's OK to be a little uncomfortable, a little out of your element. But if you can't ask the question without laughing hysterically, maybe you're not ready for the answer.
If I left his sex-ed to his middle school, though, he'd never be ready. He'd never know that being 14, obsessed with boobs, and waking up with erections is utterly normal. Far as I understand it, being penis-less myself, “morning wood” happens to you gents every day, or so, your entire lives! That's gotta be a pain. He'd never know that thinking about sex all the time, at that age-- or any age-- is normal! Instead, he'd get the guilt laid on nice and thick, courtesy of the churches down here.
I can't have that. No fucking way!
I'm not saying it's always easy to discuss these things with your kid. Some times it's very uncomfortable to look at your kid, the kid who's diaper you changed, and discuss sexual intercourse with them. But it has to be done. You can't just let them learn from their peers! Remember the shit that we heard that way?! Coke-douches, for one, I mean, shit! Blue balls for another!
I got therapy, and worked through my own sexual dysfunctions-- there weren't many, I admit, because that was something I rebelled over early on. I learned to be able to discuss sex clinically, without embarrassment, because I wanted my kids to be able to tell me anything, to ask anything. Some stuff I hope they don't ask me. I don't want to know if my daughter likes to get spanked. I don't really want to know if my oldest son decides he's into bondage. That's just not my business. But if they do tell me, it'll be because they know they can get good information, truth and science, instead of “Oh My God!” I'd rather my daughter telephoned me for a ride home from a date “Because he told me he doesn't have/won't use a condom” than have to take her into the doctor for antibiotics and treatment for chlamydia.
I'm not the norm down here, though. That guy who teaches the class with the backwash is. I don't live in a theocracy, and I'm not a god-botherer. Jesus won't show up in my bedroom if I'm getting my freak on; nor will he yell at me for not banishing my kids for being healthy, mentally prepared, careful and caring lovers. Shit, it's the least I can do for the world, present it with three more adults who aren't ashamed of themselves.
There are enough things you choose to do that can make you ashamed, you should never be ashamed of the normal, natural stuff like your sexual orientation or kinks. And you should never encourage ignorance of safer sex practices... being uncomfortable with the idea of teens fucking isn't a good enough reason-- it's crap. You did it, didn't you? Your kids will to. Don't let them make the same mistakes you did.