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Thursday, November 6, 2008

My Exceptionally Poor Sex (Education)

I was reading AiG's article today on posters and their messages. It concluded with the author discussing how most professors are anti-Christian and textbooks having a heavy anti-Christian bias. It made me think: what were some of my educational experiences? I thought of Columbus myths I learned, lies about the effects of drugs, and many other things. Nothing, though, is more stark than what I learned about sex: nothing.

(To note, I grew up in Oklahoma.)

Abstinence-only? If only.
The amount of sex education I received in school is roughly equal to the number of legitimate scientific criticisms Ray has regarding evolution: none. There were no health courses, no material handed out to students, no discussion of it at all. I had questions about various things relating to sex in middle school. Were they questions about the mechanics of sex? No. Were they questions about relationships surrounding sex? No. They were health-related questions.

Why weren't my questions regarding mechanics or relationships? I think by middle school most kids understand these fairly well. I actually had the awkward experience of being sat down for the mechanics talk by my father in middle school -- roughly three years after a guy had brought a Penthouse magazine to elementary school one day. As far as relationships, that's stressed ad nauseam by parents and television.

Questions a 13-year-old can't answer
What was lacking, though, was education about sex.
  • What's the probability of getting pregnant the first time you have sex without contraception use?
  • Can either party contract an STD if there is only oral sex?
  • If the other person is a virgin, is there any chance of getting an STD?
  • How reliable is contraception for preventing both STDs and pregnancy?
  • Where can you get condoms and is there an age restriction?
Would answers to these questions have encouraged sexual activity? I can't say, as none of us had any sex education in school. What I can say, though, is that not having the answers to these questions didn't discourage sexual activity. Without any sexual education at all, most of the people in knew in middle school were becoming sexually active by no later than the eighth grade. Most of it, from what I remember, was either manual or oral sex -- acts generally considered not sex by middle school students and assumed to be safe.

Sampling educational material
I wonder if condoms had been available at school if that would have encouraged sexual activity? Again, I can't say, but I imagine, if anything, it would have encouraged responsible sexual activity. I knew a couple of guys who stole condoms from the store, but I wonder about those who didn't? Would the several pregnancies which occurred in eighth grade have occurred had condoms been available along with proper sex education? Again... I can't say.

My observations are limited to middle school as I had the privilege of going to an academically-accelerated school for high school (one to where you must apply). Visiting with my friends who went to the public high school was surreal. All they seemed to talk about was sex and recounting all the girls I knew in middle school who were now pregnant. While I imagine the details of most STD-positive individuals is kept private (for good reason), they could recite a list of diseased individuals.

Abstinence-only driver's education
I think ignorance is an invalid form of education. I reflect back on my driver's education. Most of it was about the mechanics of driving, but they set apart a third of the course for responsible driving. Did they make sure to avoid a discussion of drinking so as not to encourage it? No. Did they, in their discussion, urge us only to abstain from drinking? No. They educated us about it.
  • What are the laws surrounding drinking, and drinking and driving?
  • What are the physical and mental effects of intoxication?
  • How does intoxication influence your driving?
  • How much more likely are you to get in an accident if you're intoxicated?
  • Is marijuana intoxication okay to drive with?
The science of their answers were pretty good. They gave us the facts, they gave us statistics, and they took questions. They knew kids would drink; it's inevitable these days. I imagine they figured it's better they know the facts about drinking so it could better shape their policies.

A foundation of ignorance
What if my driver's education had omitted the education on drinking? I could only imagine people thinking it's safe as long as you aren't traveling a long distance or at high speeds. I imagine their only education would be comprised of what they hear from others, such as drink coffee before you drive drunk to make you alert.

I don't think we would accept that for education on driving. Sadly, this type of education is what we accept for sex. Too many kids think oral sex is not sex and that there are no risks for disease contraction with it. Too many don't know whether there's an age restriction on buying condoms (which only compounds the fear of embarrassment at the checkout lane). Too many just don't have basic education -- neither from schools or parents.


watercat said...

Wow, this hits a nerve. Entering HS after eight years of Catholic Elem, I had yet to learn what oral or even manual sex was. Found a girl to help, and we really really tried to be responsible. The most embarassing moments of my life were undoubtedly asking the adult behind the drugstore counter for condoms. Unfortunately, they didn't come with instructions, my friends were as ignorant as I was, and in those pre-internet days every bookstore and library in town produced only a couple of superficial books that were largely kept locked up. Result was an 8lb boy who died of cancer, so I too really wish I'd had a better, non-religious, education. This ignorance-only crap really pisses me off.

ps; FSM has a gospel?

DisComforting Ignorance said...

Wow, I'm sorry. That's terrible. Luckily my curiosity stopped at questions. I never really thought about it, but if I had been like my classmates, I don't know if I would have known how to use a condom. I definitely don't think I would have had the nerve to go buy some.

And yeah, that was back before ready Internet access. It's great that there's that sort of resource now for those responsible enough to seek it out (and can get anonymous access to it). The downsides are, of course, bad information and those who wouldn't take the time to investigate on their own.

I plan on adopting a son at least seven years down the road and it's my goal to raise him in as much education as possible, in all areas. There are few things I think are more important for the health of a child than a healthy education on sex. I don't see how parents can care about stuff like oral hygiene, multivitamins, and all other preventative health considerations and yet be so silent on the issue of healthy sex. He'll get the mechanics of sex at an appropriate, young age and probably several discussions on responsible sex around the age of 12 -- of course, the age depends on when his age is about to become sexually active in the future.

I think frank discussion about sex and responsible sex will better inform them on responsible relationships. I think a policy of no sex before marriage and silence on responsible sex is a grave mistake. I would think a kid would have healthier sexual relationships with a more reasonable relationship with the parent on discussions regarding sex. And if there's one thing that he'd get more than my love is condoms. Lots and lots of condoms :P

I couldn't imagine giving the car keys to a kid without a discussion on drunk driving. I couldn't imagine giving a credit card to a kid without a discussion on responsible spending. I couldn't imagine letting a kid enter today's teenage society without a discussion on responsible sex.

P.S. Yes, and it's fantastic. It has excellent refutations of evolutionary theory by using pirates. You can buy it from Amazon. Or, if you want to borrow it, I can mail it to you. I'll just need it back before January, as we're hosting a Flying Spaghetti Monster spaghetti dinner (FSM events require full pirate outfit to preach from the FSM Gospel).

watercat said...

Wow, the FSM Gospel looks awesome! I might pick one up from Amazon. Thanks.

Age 12 I'd say it's too late. One of my wierdest memories is, our old parish priest, from where we used to live, came to visit, sat me down, said something my brain has bleached away like birds and bees get together......I was like fifteen: In my mind I'm screaming "so this is what this is all aboutOMFG LETMEOUTOFHERE!!!.....and he ended with....."Do you have any questions?" I said no. And ran.

That was apparently my mom's attempt to do the right thing. But the one lesson I learned in my intercellular tissue, was that sex was a topic one did not mention. In my next life, that's the thing I would change.

In a way it's easier now. The other day my grandson asked out of a clear blue sky, "What's rape?" heh. I never asked anybody that when I was a kid!