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Making the Grade: Some School Sex Ed is Sexier Than Others

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A long while ago, I was minding my own business, just sitting in a coffee shop having a latte waiting for my child to finish their improv class, when I looked at Facebook.

There, in a link, was an article from Think Progress, with this title: “Abstinence Only course in Texas tells kids that having sex makes them like a chewed up piece of gum.”

I had to read that twice to settle into the reality that it was an actual article and not a joke. After clicking?

According to Think Progress, “Starting in middle school, students attending the Canyon Independent School District are instructed they should remain a virgin until they get married.

And the teachers that work in those Texas schools are instructed to drive this point home by telling kids that they don’t want to be like a used toothbrush or chewed-up piece of gum.”

That toothbrush is a piece of plastic.  Do you think the people writing up that curriculum understand that? I mean, what’s a thrice married father of 5? A glass of sour and curdled milk left out to spoil?

That grandmother who is enjoying dating in her 70’s? Is she like a moldy old piece of bread?

What’s a survivor of sexual violence? What might they be?

It was at this point I had yet another talk about sex ed with my child (and thankfully it’s a process for us not just a one-time conversation) what they’d been told in school (mostly DON’T DO IT), and how already the school-yard party line seemed to be that that girls weren’t supposed to do it but boys were supposed and how that was both hypocritical and mathematically impossible.

We talked about bodies, how to know what you were ready for, pleasure, consent, kindness, respect, patience, safety and we used a lot of anatomically correct lingo.

At which point my child said, “I think more parents should talk to their kids,” and then went on to read a book.

And life went on and no one died from having yet another version of “the talk.”

We all either have kids, like kids, or were kids. I researched it at the time, and there were 1028 school districts in my home state of Texas at the time of the article with HALF of them not teaching sex ed at all!  The remainder taught what was called Abstinence Only, with a few exceptions for Abstinence Plus (which did introduce the idea of birth control). That’s a whole lot of kids not getting even the basics on how to take care of themselves.

Moving to the Rogue Valley, I was pleased to find out that the State of Oregon got an A+ for mandating comprehensive and medically accurate sexual education in schools. (According to a Population Institute 2015 poll reported in the Oregonian in 2016.) Classes statewide discuss contraception, HIV information, STI prevention, as well as abstinence. In addition, I learned that the Rogue Valley Planned Parenthood began working with Lotus Rising Project to create Rev Rising which, “is made up of a diverse student body from local schools and young people from the LRP interactive theater group. Members come to the group with different beliefs and viewpoints. No one is expected to already know about sexual/reproductive health right, prevention issues or have theater experience. We strive to create a Council that is strong and varied in its membership and work actively to build a group that is anti-racist, anti-sexist, and anti-homophobic.”

Every parent is going to have some differing opinions on how this all works. About how their kids should learn or not, about sex, should it be in the schools or at home or both. I understand how fearful the conversation can be. Talking about it can seem overwhelming, but I think we deserve honesty about it, at all ages, and in age appropriate, comprehensive and accurate ways. Because people are not toothbrushes.


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