Hands up if you think education is a great thing and of paramount importance to young people. I see a lot of hands out there. If I were to ask if sex education is equally important, some of those hands might go down. This week's Sex Stories We Love is all about issues facing sex education and some movements that are happening to make it better.
The First Step
Are you familiar with the term "in a nutshell"? Well, it will always be hard to sum up a challenging topic, such as sex education, in a succinct way. However, this article on how educational institutions, at all levels, are failing because they have their own issues with sexual violence is a full nut of narrative on a much-needed social discussion. We already know that sex education is much more than menstruation and ejaculations. We already know that the abstinence movement is a bust. Yet, relevant and constructive sex education needs to lay foundations of consent, respect, and empathy. When the education system is not challenging sexual assault - from bra-snapping to selfie-sharing to inappropriate relations by students and educators - in a meaningful manner, then there remains cause for concern. This is not to say school is not a place for sex ed. Absolutely students should receive sex education in school. However, the education industry needs to reform itself at the same time as we continue a movement to positive sex education.
Sometimes it's easy for our thoughts to become isolated and for us to think that our problems are unique. Canada and the United States have been talking about and struggling with what to do about sex education for years. Different issues and debates have taken over this needed discussion for ages, with no end in site. Japan is struggling with similar issues around sex education and legislators there are becoming actively involved. It is easy to misinterpret Japan's sexual culture, given the predominant stereotypes of the schoolgirl fetish, hentai and tentacle porn. Yet, these do not define a culture's sexual identity. Rather, they too are struggling with the idea of allowing topics such as intercourse. The struggle continues in many parts of the world.
Sex Ed and the Christian Community
So, how do we move forward to create a better environment to bring sex education to young people? One great step is to have people of faith embrace the idea that sex education is needed for young people. While the United Church is one of the more progressive Christian denominations, it is refreshing to see a Christian publication present such a forward-thinking editorial on sex. Controversial writer Michael Coren shares a simple and succinct message: there is nothing for Christians to fear in sex education. Kids can learn about sex at school and at home. That Coren's message appears on a religious site is a great move toward reconciling this truth. Faith has its place in many homes, but sex is even more ubiquitous. Learning to navigate with and between these two is paramount to our young people's lives.
Sex Ed and the Muslim Community
Another faith-based group moving the sex education message forward is Muslim women. Over recent years, Muslim women have organized to bring sex education to their community. Noting how sex can often be a taboo subject in the Muslim community, organizations such as Reviving Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment network and HEART Women & Girls are bridging the discussion of sex education by creating open forums for discussion. One important concern Muslims have when discussing sexual violence and challenges is the desire to not further stigmatize their faith, which is already under constant scrutiny. This is an important reminder that sex education is intersectional and integral to so many other parts of our lives.
Sex Ed Is All Ed
What better way to incorporate and understand the intersectionality of sex and real life than by actually incorporating sex ed into all of curriculum? This brilliant idea from Natalia Mehlman Petrzela suggests that we incorporate sexual education throughout all relevant parts of learning. This makes awesome sense. Currently, sex is firmly established in so many parts of our lives. Sex is everywhere, including our entertainment, how we're expected to interact socially, and how we shop. Bringing discussions of how these aspects of our lives intersect with sex and then how those can be incorporated into classroom discussions is a great way to solidify learning. Neither education nor sex live in a vacuum in real life.
Surprisingly Positive Place
Finally, one of the reasons people do not ask for needed sexual education is fear. Fear of being laughed at, being mocked, or looking foolish. Yet, when you're desperate, you look anywhere. The Internet can be a tricky place, particularly for those who are vulnerable. Who would have thought Reddit would be a place of kind and considerate help when a young man asked for help about sex?