Hey Parents: Comprehensive Sex Education is Worth It
Thousands of parents in California have recently done their children a great disservice by signing a petition to remove a sex ed book from the classroom called “Your Health Today.”
The book, which was slated to be used in 9th grade sex ed classes in Fremont, California this fall, takes a refreshingly new approach to sex ed by actually discussing things most 9th graders are questioning. It actually manages to go beyond clinical discussions of eggs, sperm, and vague references to how one reaches the other.
The petitioners claims that the book “exposes youth to sexual games, sexual fantasies, sexual bondage with handcuffs, ropes, and blindfolds, sexual toys and vibrator devices, and additional instruction that is extremely inappropriate.” With a description like that, you would think that the school district accidentally purchased a Cards Against Humanity deck rather than a textbook.
No one denies these topics are mentioned, but as pointed out by Slate, the book only provides definitions (students looking for anything more will need to sneak in to 50 Shades of Grey when it premieres next year. Or just use Google.) And on closer inspection, “Your Health Today” is actually a really informative book that provides information every sex ed class should: how to put on a condom, anatomically correct drawings of reproductive organs, and a myriad of topics affecting today’s youth that range from online dating to the idea of “hooking up” with someone.
But parents are seemingly up in arms over their teenagers being “exposed” to this information, as if talking about sex toys could do the same kind of damage as, say, a complete lack of information about preventing HIV. The parents are protesting even though school officials in Fremont say their own internal surveys show many students are sexually active.
I can’t say I’m surprised parents have had this reaction. As a culture, we regard sex as shameful and wrong, which has led to a lot of misinformation about sex and the topics surrounding it. Time after time we have heard about students who are uninformed about birth control, the importance of consent, and STIs. Sweeping sex under the rug and only talking about it in the most clinical of senses does not do anything to change that.
If we want children to develop healthy attitudes towards sex–ones that revolve around respect, emotional preparedness, and a working knowledge of the good and bad parts of being sexually active–we need to actually talk about it with teenagers. We need books that teach kids about their birth control options, that their sexual preferences aren’t wrong or unnatural, and that a lot of responsibility comes with being sexually active.
But we need parents to be on board, too. Mercury News reported one parent griping that: “there’s a section that tells you how to talk to your prospective partners about your sexual history […] How does that relate to a 14-year-old kid? I don’t see it at all.”
And therein lies the problem–that parent clearly doesn’t understand that this kind information could be invaluable for their child in just a few years. So I’m leaving it up to the rest of the parents in Fremont–the ones who are okay with their children learning about the great, bad, and everything in-between parts of sex–to tell the school board the support this book, and they support sex ed. We can’t get by with just teaching out kids “how sex works.” I promise, they already know that much. Let the school district teach an effective, comprehensive sex education class so your kids are as prepared as they can be. The more information they have, the better off they are.