I'm sorry, folks, but I hope you'll permit me this space this week to write on an issue close to my home that will affect all of yours. This week's Sex Stories We Love is all about sex education and the foolish attacks the societally-integral concept endures.
The Ontario Embarrassment
Folks outside of Canada might not have heard this, but the newly-elected Premier of Ontario, Canada, decided to repeal a progressive sex education curriculum introduced in 2015. The subject matter and methods have been controversial ever since they were first introduced back in 2010. And it did take five years to finally get put in place. However, it is solid sex ed. It introduced students to proper anatomical language, different sex acts such as masturbation, oral and anal sex, sexual and gender identity, online safety and consent, and much more. However, in all things political, the sex ed curriculum became an election issue.
When a conservative party headed by Doug Ford (brother of late and infamous Toronto Mayor Rob Ford) was elected into leadership, one of the first things they did was scrap the current sex ed curriculum. This is awful enough, but their back-up plan is even more degrading. Beginning this fall, teachers in Ontario will present a sexual education curriculum that was released in 1998 to their students. A 20-year-old, outdated version of sex education. Most of those things I mentioned above aren't mentioned in that course. The internet is barely mentioned because it was barely a thing!
The reason I want to share this with the rest of the world is because I know the wave of conservative, populist political thought could also disrupt your child's sexual education, or even prevent it from happening. Sex ed is a vital part of a child's development and is a vital part of education.
Activism to the Rescue
Now, after the Ontario sex ed program was scrapped, it came out that the Ford government plans to bring in the "new" sex education curriculum, but only after parents across the province are properly consulted. That was a sticking point last time around. Faith groups and socially conservative parent groups charged that there wasn't enough consultation conducted by the liberal government before putting the curriculum into schools. Is anyone holding their breath here that the distribution of consultation will be fair and even across all demographics this time?
In the meantime, folks aren't taking this lying down. Educators, sex educators and the public are protesting and taking action. Well-known and loved Toronto-based sex educator Nadine Thornhill is raising funds to collect the information of the repealed sex ed curriculum and turn it into videos for her excellent YouTube channel that focuses on child and adolescent sexuality. Folks like Nadine keep the spirit alive and should be an inspiration to people in other communities, cities and countries. There will always be opposition to modern sex education ... so we have to fight for it.
The Damage to Be Done
It cannot be said just how much damage will be done to another generation of kids and young adults if this decision in Ontario isn't reversed and if other jurisdictions in the world do not embrace progressive, positive sexual education. Instead, lack of inclusive sex ed could cause more LGBTQ+ kids from across the sexual spectrum to continue to grow up in silence, forcing them to turn to other media and spaces for sex ed.
The repealed curriculum held space for queer kids throughout the years of study. Keeping children and adolescents from responsible, reasoned, and socially relevant sexual education (whether in school or at home) denies kids the opportunity to learn about their bodies, their safety, their responsibilities to others, and what they can do to protect themselves and others from sexual abuse. The repealed curriculum held space for people of all faiths and viewpoints. It offered honest information. This is fundamental around the world.
Some would argue that giving kids sex education too young is irresponsible. No. Not giving kids sex ed, everywhere around the world, is negligent.
Here in Canada, we have seen the result of this negligence. The rest of the world also saw our negligence. When Rehtaeh Parsons was taken off life support after ending her life, the world was a witness to the young woman who was failed. Her story encompassed so much of what a teen might deal with today. She was sexually assaulted at a party. Explicit photos of her from the assault were shared. She was cyberbullied for months. All of this has been discussed with hundreds of thousands of kids as part of the now-repealed curriculm. Glen Canning, Rehtaeh's father, was critical of Ford's decision to repeal the sex ed curriculum. This man lived through the anguish of losing a child relating to issues that the repealed curriculum addresses. Do we really need more consultation that that?
China's Progressive Sex Ed
Many people across the country have little or no access to sex ed beyond textbooks and whispers. As is often the case around the world, older generations aren't taught about sex so they cannot or will not teach it to the next generation. Far away from the despair we're feeling in Ontario, the people of China move down a progressive path by establishing sex education and training teachers to deliver it. In modern China, there is a rise in HIV transmission rates. So, safer sex is definitely on the syllabus. Yet, so are topics such as consent, intercourse, human rights, sexuality and sex work. This represents actual forward thinking and action.
Finally, kids just want to know about sex. They want to know how the world and sex work. They want to understand. Standing in their way is dangerous and damaging to them.