Why Is Sex Education Controversial?

So, this is about the birds and the bees and talking to children about things they need to know.

You may wonder at the outset what kind of a pervert I must be to be thinking about this topic now that I am 66 and my children are all adults. But I am uniquely qualified to talk about this education issue. I was a public school teacher for 31 years in Texas, a State that assumes teachers are pedophiles if they mention anything at all in class about sex, especially when you are teaching young teens who are not interested in learning about anything else. And my own personal history with sex education was basically knowing nothing at all when an older boy chose to please himself by sexually assaulting me. I was ten, then. I was seventeen when I came within one phone call of solving my trauma problem with suicide.

Every Child Has a Right to Accurate Information About Human Sexuality from a Young Age.

We don’t hesitate to teach the how-tos and what-to-look-out-fors if we choose to let them use power tools to make something in shop class, or if we choose to let them drive a soap-box racer they built in shop class in a local downhill competition. Why would we expect to not need to teach those things about becoming sexually active? They might accept our command to not become sexually active without our permission, but how will they even know they are not doing what we have forbidden if they don’t know what the word actually means?

My Own Experience is an Example of What Can Go Wrong

***This next part is graphic and not for the squeamish- pass it up if you need to.***

I was eight years old when another boy told me what he believed was the truth about where babies come from and how to masturbate. Most of the information was not quite accurate or flat-out wrong. But I didn’t believe him anyway.

And then, at ten, a much older and larger boy trapped me behind a pile of truck and tractor tires. He pinned me down. He pulled off my pants and underwear. He told me not to holler or call for help because no one would hear, and things would get worse for me if I made too much noise. He proceeded to give himself pleasure by torturing my private parts. He twisted things that caused incredible pain and forced me to keep quiet as he did it. There was no sexual intercourse of any kind and not even any masturbation. He did show me his erection, but there was no orgasm I can remember, only the pain and the look on his face.

***That is the end of the description of the attack. You can now read this with your eyes open again.***

What nearly killed me was not actually the attack itself. I have come to learn there are other, worse things that can happen in that situation. And knowing the accurate facts of life would probably not have prevented this from happening to me. But I had no understanding at all of why this had happened or what it was… or what to do with it. I let him convince me that he would get me again if I told anyone. I let him convince me it was at least partially my fault that it had happened. By the time I turned eleven, my child’s psyche had shut down the memory. I not only could not have told anybody about it, but I couldn’t even let myself remember that it happened. I would be twenty-two before I could admit to myself that it happened.

So, as a teenager, I controlled feelings of sexual arousal by burning myself on the backs of my calves and across my lower back using mostly the heating grate in winter and wooden matches in the summer. I was terrified of girls, nakedness, and especially taking showers in P.E, class. I hated myself. I brought up the topic of suicide at the lunch table one day as a high school sophomore. I told a group of my male friends that I was thinking of suicide. They laughed. One of them took out a pocket knife. He put it in my hands.

“Go ahead. That would be the most interesting thing that happened around here in a long time.”

That was almost the end. I didn’t go through with it, because I didn’t want an audience. They all laughed. All except one boy. I would later put coded notes in his locker, warning him about terrible things that could happen. He figured out the code and turned it over to the high school counselor. Mr. Cleveland called me in and confronted me with it. He wanted to know what it was all about. I couldn’t have told him if I had wanted to. He suggested that if I was having homosexual feelings, we could safely discuss that in his office without anyone having to know anything about it. He knew from the look on my face that that was not the problem. That was, of course, the exact opposite of what it really was, and though he understood at least that much, he never got to the bottom of it. He interviewed more of my friends about it. They didn’t know anything either. My own parents lived out the rest of their lives without ever learning the truth about it. As far as their parenting went, Dad always assumed that my mother the nurse had told me the facts of life. Mom was fairly sure that Dad explained it. The truth is, I learned about the names and parts of the reproductive organs from the Methodist minister during catechism and the Vocational Agriculture teacher when we dissected pig genitals in class. Those things happened during high school, two to five years after I needed to know those things.

I am lucky the friend I called the day I decided it was going to end answered the phone. If he hadn’t reassured me that I had value as a human being, my story would’ve ended very differently. As it was, he saved my life without ever realizing that that was what he had done.

To be honest, I can’t really regret what happened to me because that trauma actually made me who I am. My thirty-one-year teaching career was instigated by my desire to be in a position to prevent what happened to me from happening to students. And it didn’t have anything to do with talking about sex in class. I never did that. I did have some private conversations through journal writing and response with several boys and two girls. I may have prevented some twelve and thirteen year olds from being victimized. I suspect there were also things that I missed the signs of, or that nobody ever told me about certain things that probably did happen.

As an English teacher, I was never assigned any sex-education classes. That was mostly a school-nurse thing when it happened at all.

So, why am I ranting about sex-education classes at all? What does my grisly experience have to do with anything? And why would I believe such classes would help anything?

Well, it was learning the scientific and physical facts that allowed me to reclaim for myself any sort of normal life. And th e controversy in schools about all things sexual boils down to the fact that conservative and religious voices in places like Texas don’t like the spreading of facts and science in any setting, let alone the settings their prejudices and blue noses currently rule. They refuse to acknowledge the fact that gay people are physically born that way, that gender is fluid, and that teachers are not, by definition, pedophiles and groomers (though statistical facts would indicate that up to 5% are susceptible to becoming that if certain practices aren’t implemented in schools.)

Schoolchildren have a right to certain scientifically verifiable facts about their sex lives, taught to them by dispassionate adults who won’t put their own spin on what is true.

  1. All humans have both a physical and a psychological need for touch and intimacy whether it is sexual in nature or not.
  2. No one is allowed to decide who touches you but you.
  3. Sexual touching of any kind requires the consent of the one touched, and without it, the act is a crime.
  4. Sex is not evil or inherently sinful. It can be a very good thing.
  5. There are forms of sex that don’t cause pregnancy, and ways to perform the act with interventions like condoms that avoid causing a baby to be made.
  6. Bodies mature enough to have sex are not always attached to minds that are mature enough to handle it correctly. Think before you try it.
  7. Remember, love is something that complicates everything in your life, and the younger you are, the more likely you are to make a mistake about love.
  8. Numbers one through seven are from the mind of Mickey, not a scientist, and not a sex-education teacher. You can probably find a much better list of such things from a more reliable source.

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