Thursday, April 22, 2010

Let's Talk About Sex

The four year old has pulled her skirt over her head and dances as she sings, “I am inappropriate! I am inappropriate! I shake my inappropriate booty! I love to be inappropriate!” I think this new found freedom stems from her recently received first kiss. Sam leaned over during snack time and kissed her cheek. Being the girl that she is, my child immediately told her best friend, who told her mom, who told me. Best Friend’s Mom also told Sam’s mom, who apologized to me for her son’s forwardness. I said, “A kiss on the cheek? I think that’s okay.”

In the face of our trouble over the new 5th grade Growth and Change course that is coming up soon, a kiss on the cheek seems positively benign. The course book talks about oral sex, masturbation, etc. Not in the “how to” sense, but in the definitional sense, which is probably way more information than any 11 year old wants. Remember how oogey sex sounded at that age? Remember when boys still had cooties? Or, I should say, when we recognized that boys had cooties.

Looking over the student manual for the Growth and Change science unit, I think it’s rather impressive. Mainly focused on the biology of reproduction and human growth, it has large illustrations of internal and external organs. It shows drawings of different body types, different stages of development, and different needs for boys and girls (girls shave their pits, or at least they do in the summer once swimsuit season begins; both need deodorant; both need to shower more frequently, etc.) It sends kids to the parents for morality issues, like when is it okay to have sex and is masturbation acceptable. It repeatedly tells kids that sexual contact is for consenting adults. Thinking that the whole hullabaloo over the new materials was 99% unfounded, I shared the course book with some friends. Holy Can of Religious Right Worms!

“That’s pornography!” exclaimed these dear, wonderful women.


You mean, pencil drawings of the human body, not engaged in any behavior at all, just standing there, to be dissected, as it were, is porn? Wow, then I am a porn addict because I regularly look at real naked bodies (photos in my pregnancy/child birth book, my children, my self--although this last one is mostly due to proximity to mirrors and not because I’m so in to that.) They felt that schools should not teach sex education at all. But schools teach the skeletal system, the digestive system, the endocrine system and the nervous system. What should we do? Leave a big, black, gaping hole for the reproductive system? The books that teach about biology should have the word TABOO printed over the no-no parts?

From what I've seen, without accurate information, kids will do one of two things:

  1. Either they will find out in tragic and scary ways that mating is for humans, not just for dogs. And, sister, in that case, it will not be the mature, loving encounter that I hope it is for my children.
  2. They’ll learn all about sex, anyway. On the playground, in locker rooms, under the bleachers. They’ll hear the words that kids use to describe sexual acts and they’ll think sex is dirty, embarrassing, and something that only teenagers do.

Now, it could be that in 20 years my kids will be sitting around discussing their youth and part of what they’ll say is, “Can you believe Mom and the school were so open about all that? What a stupid idea!” But, maybe, it will do the opposite. Maybe, between the school system and home, we’ll create a generation of kids who can have an honest discussion about sex with someone they love without the accompanying embarrassment or guilt. What a novel idea: demysticize the act by actually talking about it without giggles or rib poking.

Of course, given my children’s propensity for pulling their skirts over their heads, we may be in for a rough haul. I’ll let you know in 20 years.


buttercup said...

Our oldest son was in such a bad mood because we told him he had to go to the "maturation" class. I think he was mostly mad because his good friend's mom never makes him have to do any of these things and that is why I am afraid for his good friend and glad that I am a mean mother and make my children do uncomfortable things now so that they can be happy later in life.
BTW who chooses your word verifications? Today's word is GROPE!

Sara Padrusch said...

This was perfect. I completely agree. My age 8 and 11 kiddos have always known about sex. For one thing we have lots of pets some of whom seem to be in denial about their lack of testes and try to mate with the other pets.I also think that it is so much easier to explain the mechanics of sex when they are little and they are curious and matter of fact about things. No one is embarrassed and everyone feels comfortable using the correct words for body parts.

Good job not being crazy!

Barbara Bee said...

I appreciate you posting this. I had heard some of the hullabaloo and was wondering if it was as bad as they were saying. School systems are often maligned, but they try to mean well. (Although parents do well to keep an eye on things.) My teaching partner and I have permission to teach sex ed, but we always cop out and bring in a rep from the Museum of Nature and Science to talk about puberty. The kids are always on their best behavior because they honesty want someone to explain things to them--even though we always think of them as being street smart. They're not.

Anonymous said...


Jody England Hansen said...

Hey, Ms. Mao, could you please translate the above comment for me. I want to know what sex education is like in China.
I keep wishing I had had better tools for teaching this to my kids, and better programs in school, and that was only 8 to 12 years ago.
I would tell you to hang in there, but that phrase might be too pornographic for you.
By the way, the word verification for my comment is "exual". Did you fix it that way?

susieq said...

I learned most of my sex education on the bus, plus I had 3 big brothers and 2 big sisters. We got to see the "movie" when we were 12. By that time, it was a year too late for most of the girls. I think sex education should begin very young using age appropriate words. And don't stop until the kid is 18.

Migaloo said...

Dad busted out the overlays in the World Book Encyclopedia when I was about 8 and asked some crazy question about "train through the tunnel" and making babies. Yep, my brothers were a wealth of knowledge. That was the one and only parental "talk" that I recall.

A church youth leader later provided some important information about wedding night preparation which was echoed by my brother . . . at my wedding reception.

The most complete advice came from Tink's obgyn as he gave step-by-step instructions for the initial intimate encounter. Quite informative, to say the least.

Our kids have gotten information early. In fact, at one point my daughter said, "Too much information, Mom."

buttercup said...

I think Migaloo was given more Sex Ed from mom & dad than I ever did-although I'm told that I was taught at home. I must've been in the same room when that world book was pulled out. That would've made me 4.

halsadick said...

I am the last of 4 boys. I think the first time I ever actually said the word "vagina" out loud was when BigBahama and I were showing our oldest (when she was 3 or 4) the conception, pregnancy and birth book (with bigger than life full-color photos!!) and explaining how it all works. Once I got over the "say vagina out loud" hurdle, the rest didn't seem so difficult.