Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sex Ed Gone Wild

The New York City public schools are introducing a new, salacious sex education curriculum which, though optional, is still rousing controversy. Why? Well we could start with the fact that, according to NBC, the co-ed classing include "role playing on how to resist sexual advances and on "negotiating condom use." What parents don't relish the idea of sending their son or daughter into the classroom to act out their first 'condom-use negotiation' in the presence of their peers? That appears to be only the tip of the iceberg. Outside of the classes, students have no less unsettling homework assignments: go to the store and take notes on important condom features like lubrication before you seek out a clinic that treats STDs and write out its confidentiality policy. It is important, after all, that students be prepared for when they get their first STD and need it treated without their parents finding out. The stated goal of the new curriculum, according to the deputy mayor, is "to help kids to delay the onset of sexual activity, and if they choose to engage in sexual activity, to do it in a healthy way" neglecting--by accidental oversight I assume--to add, "and if they don't do it in a healthy way, to get their crotch rot treated without mom finding out."

I certainly am not on the streets beating the drum for abstinence only education. After all, why should we expect a world full of non-Christians to accept the sexual morals of the church? Without faith as a moral compass, the motivation for avoiding premarital, adolescent intercourse is essentially non-existent. Frankly, speaking for those of us not so far removed from the heated, hormonal passions of youth, even faith provides only a paperthin preventative. Still, even as the sexual mores of society evolve such that an active, robust teen sexuality is becoming accepted, there are features of this curriculum which should give pause.

It seems to assume and affirm a kind of sexual libertinism. The guiding principle is "whatever you want is fine, provided you're doing it safely." Consider, for example, that they are giving flash cards to children as young as eleven to teach them the dangers of "intercourse using a condom and an oil-based lubricant, mutual masturbation, French kissing, oral sex and anal sex." Weren't you thinking about how to have safe anal sex at eleven? Me neither. If that weren't enough, the curriculum directs children to such resources as Columbia University's lascivious manifestation of Dear Abby called "Go Ask Alice!" Wonderfully open-minded Alice gives this advice to a homosexual teen:

Leading HIV research and care organizations, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC), say that the risk of being infected with HIV via receiving oral sex without a condom is virtually impossible.

Where your braces are concerned, if you are giving oral sex, proceed with caution: be gentle with partners and avoid sudden, erratic movements (both of you). If you decide not to take your partner's penis into your mouth, your lips, tongue, saliva, and breath can be wonderful sources of pleasure.

Admittedly, that unnerves me more than it might most, but surely most of us can find common ground when Alice reluctantly tells one seeker that sexual contact with an animal is probably wrong in practice but is normal to fantasize about. I confess that at the sexually vigorous age of twelve the concept of sex with other people was novel and mysterious enough. Sex with donkeys hadn't occurred to me. Then again, I didn't have Alice to plant the idea in my head that it was normal. I also didn't have her to help me learn how to massage my prostate, locate the clitoris, or give me a script for phone sex. Amusingly, the man with the prostate question was concerned that his question might be too kinky. He clearly didn't see the bestiality question or, for that matter, the poor coprophiliac who Alice had to disappoint by telling that eating feces, while not poisonous, increases the risk of disease. Lucky for him, its still okay to play with scat provided it is done safely.

That seems to be the theme here: whatever you do--eating feces, fantasizing about wombats, fellating unprotected with braces--is all good just so long as it is safe. The curriculum and the resources it recommends affirm no socio-sexual norms except safety. While I realize that safety needs to be the primary focus of sexual education, there is a distinction between "This is how to have sex without getting pregnant" and "This is how to sexually gratify yourself with your partners feces while minimizing the risk of disease." It introduces children to sexually aberrant (if I can be so judgmental of the woman who gets aroused by men who "adjust" themselves in public) to which they may not otherwise have been exposed and then tacitly approves their normalcy by only commenting on the safety of such behavior. It is precisely this philosophy which "abstinence only" proponents fear will create a society even more consciously enslaved to sexual libertinism. As a culture, it should cause us great alarm that anyone believes (perhaps correctly) that eleven year olds need to know the risks of mutual masturbation, twelve year olds the perils of anal sex, and high schoolers the best way to conceal their sexual activity from their parents. One can only hope that, if the public schools really are still public, public morality will prevail. Then again, maybe this is a sign that it has.

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