Sunday, April 25, 2010

Ontario Backs Down on Sex Ed

I can’t believe we still have to fight for comprehensive sexual health education.

Comprehensive Sex Ed matters to me, a lot. As a teen I worked with at-risk youth in weekend seminars providing sexual education information. These weekend seminars were some of these kids' only exposure to sexual and reproductive health information – these teens were seeing a condom for the first time. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them were saying ‘vagina’ for the first time. They knew nothing about sexuality, consent, or sexual health. Growing up in Saskatchewan, I received an abstinence only sexual education. Before moving I had somewhat of a comprehensive sex ed class in the fifth grade! After that, the only real reproductive health lesson I remember receiving was being given free packets of always and tampax by our grade eight teacher. The rest was about saying no to sex.

Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario, seems to think this was sufficient. So do a multitude of parent groups and religious organizations. Here is what they have to say:

"It is unconscionable to teach eight-year-old children same-sex marriage, sexual orientation and gender identity," said Charles McVety, head of the Canada Christian College. "It is even more absurd to subject sixth graders to instruction on the pleasures of masturbation, vaginal lubrication, and 12-year-olds to lessons on oral sex and anal intercourse."

Parent Rehana Shaik is glad the government backed down. "I don't want the kids at a tender age to learn all that sex education. My younger son will be starting Grade 1 next year and I don't want him to learn all that," she said.

Here’s what’s actually in the (now pulled) curriculum from Google’s Cache:

Grade 1


Grade 3:


So. Teaching children the respect that we are supposed to afford one another under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and teaching children the correct names of their body parts. That is what this is all about.

Grade 6 (remember: "subject sixth graders to instruction on the pleasures of masturbation, vaginal lubrication")

Aaaaand grade 7:

Why must we fight for comprehensive sexual health education?

Why would you restrict the knowledge of first graders about the proper names for their body parts? No evil will come of a child saying 'vulva'. Children (especially children as old as six) are very aware of context and social norms. They are aware of shame and secrecy. They learn shame and secrecy where we teach it. Is body shame a family value?

Is a third grader incapable of understanding marriage? Of course not! Children in daycare understand marriage. Why do we keep same sex marriage a secret from them?

Children begin masturbating when they are in diapers. Why keep masturbation a secret from a sixth grader?

Why do we teach children that sexuality is a secret? This makes them vulnerable to sexual abuse and assault by not empowering them with knowledge of consent and a feeling of control over their own bodies. It makes them vulnerable to STIs and pregnancy, because they will feel too ashamed to discuss contraception with their partners, doctors or parents.

Do we insist on leaving kids in the dark because we are uncomfortable with their sexuality? If so, who is the one with the problem - the adults making the conscious choice to restrict this knowledge out of social discomfort, or the children who are progressing along their development, attempting to learn as much as they can from us?