Is It Just Too Big to Fit?

We are creatures born of sex, and after millions of years of ingrained procreative instincts, we are nothing if not sexual beings. As a species, the importance of our sexuality can be traced throughout history and cultures: bloody wars have been waged, grand structures have been erected and epic movements have overturned the status quo, all because of sex. With such magnitude associated with our sexuality, problems can quickly arise when this sexual birthright is left to bungle about without direction or when external forces seek to outrightly suppress it (Hedgepeth & Helmich, 1996); because, unfortunately, knowledge and understanding of one’s sexuality does not come pre-packaged with the accompanying genitals (we may be born with the equipment, but that certainly does not mean it comes with attached instructions on its proper use and care). We must recognize that future generations rely on their predecessors to instruct them in the ways of the world, especially when it comes to the labyrinthine realm of human sexuality, but like any worthwhile maze, opponents to progress hide behind every corner.

In a 2014 article, popular blogger, Matt Walsh, champions the opinion of a squeaky-wheel minority, declaring that sex is just too big to fit into a public school curriculum. He argues that because sex is so huge and so different for all 7 billion individuals in this world and all the billions that have come before, government-funded education should avoid the subject altogether, except for the bare-bone essentials of reproduction that can be covered in Biology class, along with frog anatomy (2014).  Perhaps he has a point. Sex is so much more than just one body part going into another body part.  For many, past and present, sex can be a spiritual connection with their partner(s) and/or God (Bruess & Schroeder, 2014; Walsh, 2014); it can be used to wield power, form a lifelong commitment, exact revenge or just killing time on a Tuesday afternoon.  It can create feelings of joy, anxiety, fear.  It can change our lives forever with one test result or it can be forgotten as quickly as last week’s dinner.  Sexuality creates so much a part of what makes us human that maybe, as an educational goal in public schools, sex is just too big of a subject to adequately cover. How could we possibly expect one class to encompass what sexuality is, what sexuality means, and what sexuality can be in just a handful of hour-long sessions.  Herein lies the problem: to set human sexuality aside as an island of information unto itself without recognizing its influence on every aspect of humanity, we misunderstand that our sexuality actually creates the core of the human experience (Hedgepeth & Helmich, 1996).

sex-ed 1

Within the world of education, many topics cannot be honestly and effectively taught without conveying the basic concepts of the weight and depth of human sexuality.  Art, for instance, relies entirely on the expression of the human condition for its existence.  Shakespeare’s verses, Michelangelo’s sculptures, Mozart’s operas and Petipa’s ballets mean nothing but facts on a page unless we understand the inspiration behind the works: the universal emotions that all artists attempt to capture and convey to the world.  Even beyond the touchy-feely domain of art though, most subjects must deal with sexuality at some point. Governments have riddled societies with laws attempting to regulate sexuality, religions have dictated approved and unapproved sexual behavior, history is a battlefield with sexual vice and virtue, while health, medicine, and psychology recognize the profound effects one’s sex life has on one’s well-being (Hedgepeth & Helmich, 1996). We have an immediate need for greater comprehensive sexuality education in our schools so that we can fulfill our potential as human beings.

With such magnitude, should government keep their hands off this precious subject and let it be handled in the home, with parents who can effectively convey their values and expectations to their children (Walsh, 2014)?  In an ideal world, absolutely.  Parents are an essential resource for children’s depiction of the world they live in (Bruess & Schroeder, 2014).  However, the society we have created forces its sexuality on all ages these days, despite parental intervention.  On one end, sex is attractive, cool, fun, adult; but on the other, sex is taboo, dirty, shameful (Hedgepeth & Helmich, 1996).  Parents should be the first step in deciphering this bombardment of conflicting influences for their children, but when many parents have received less instruction about sexuality than their internet-savvy teenagers, we end up with a destructive cycle of ignorance (Bruess & Schroeder, 2014; Hedgepeth & Helmich, 1996). To stop this cycle, we need properly trained individuals in our public schools who can effectively direct our youth to the beautiful middle ground of these two hectic worlds the media portrays to us.  In fact, many parents would prefer that professionals take over the role as the primary sexuality educators (Hedgepeth & Helmich, 1996).

Overwhelming numbers show that the majority of Americans believe that sex education should be taught in public schools (Bruess & Schroeder, 2014; Hedgepeth & Helmich, 1996). However, despite this data, a vocal minority continues to keep the door securely shut against instructing our youth about their sexuality (Hedgepeth & Helmich, 1996).  We have created a society that believes gun ownership is a right and as long as one has the proper training in functionality, care, and appropriate use, one would generally consider a person responsible enough to operate such a powerful weapon.  So while gun ownership is treated with reverence, genital ownership is often treated with shame due to the conflicting media messages surrounding our youth (Hedgepeth & Helmich, 1996).  The equipment given to us as a human birthright can be just as powerful and life-altering as any gun.  Yet the concern we have towards educating our youth in the proper use and care of their sexuality, borders on reckless.  We would never hand a child a loaded weapon and say, “This is for you to use later.  Not now.  In the mean time, while you’re waiting, here’s Google if you have any questions.”  No matter how many safety locks you switch on, youth will be tempted to pull the trigger on their sexuality whether they are prepared to or not (Hedgepeth & Helmich, 1996).  So why should we not, as the knowledgeable adults, prepare them every way we know how? A great way to do this is not to set sex apart as its own hour of instruction, but rather find every possible way to weave a sex positive message into the daily education of our students.

So to Matt Walsh and your squeaky following, I must agree with you that sex is just too big for one classroom.  It fills every corner of our lives whether we intend for it to or not.  As such, we need to grant space in our children’s education to allow them full exploration in the questions of human sexuality.  The internet-age is here.  The knowledge is out there.  Shouldn’t a knowledgeable, caring individual, with our youths’ best interests at heart, shape and provide the answers they are desperate to have, rather than hoping that a machine knows the difference between real answers and smut?  I love the wealth of knowledge at our fingertips, but when it comes to future generations, Google is a gamble I am not willing to make.   

 

References

Bruess, C. E. & Schroeder, E. (2014). Sexuality education: Theory and practice (6th ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Hedgepeth, E., & Helmich, J. (1996). Teaching about sexuality and HIV: Principles and methods for effective education. New York, NY: New York University Press.

Walsh, M. (2014, December 11).  No thanks, public schools.  I don’t need you to teach my kids about sex. The Matt Walsh Blog. Retrieved from http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/12/11/no-thanks-public-schools-dont-need-teach-kids-sex/

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8 responses to “Is It Just Too Big to Fit?

  1. I totally agree with you; sex IS too big to be taught in just ONE class, as a result I think it should be something that is taught wherever it seems to have relevance. When we are teaching students to look at things from multiple perspectives (in English, History, wherever), sex SHOULD be mentioned. As you said, it’s something that certainly plays into people’s motivation and decision making, so why not encourage young people to acknowledge that? Of course there will be those who oppose the inclusion of sexuality in education outside of a specific sex ed class, but in the end it will create more well-rounded and knowledgeable young people who will have a better handle on their own personal sexual decision making than their predecessors. I’m really excited to see where the future of sexuality education goes, and I think these sentiments will certainly play a part

  2. Thank you for shedding light on the vastness of sexuality education. I appreciate your point that sexuality is an interdisciplinary subject that holds importance in just about any field or practice. Your post makes me consider how early we should be integrating sexuality studies into regular education. Of course, I’ve heard arguments that aspects of sexuality (such as gender for instance) can and should be taught to as early as toddler-age, where parents are the primary educators. However since it is not a guarantee that all young children receive some sexuality education from home, how do we begin discussing sexuality in the school system? The fact that each student comes in with a different level of knowledge and understanding (not to mention learning styles and other considerations for education) makes this a challenging endeavor. Yet, perhaps if sexuality education or some other form of literal “social studies” (referring, in this case, to studying our interpersonal relationships rather than U.S. history or the like) was integrated as early as grade school, students would be better equipped to understand the intersectional nature of our sexualities. Of course, this currently an idealistic situation.

  3. I completely agree that sexuality education is too big for one class. It should be taught in classes that make sense, not just solely relying on health class or biology class. However if an individual is not comfortable teaching sexuality, having this taught in their class could be more damaging than effective. In which case, I would rather see it contained to those teaching it whom want it, have an interest, and are knowledgeable about the subject (as well as effective ways to teach the topic). But the reality is sexuality comes up in more than one class and ignoring it just continues to create shame, confusion, and misunderstanding of the topic.

  4. I am quite a fan of both the way you wrote your blog, and the conclusions that you made from your research, Charley! Your style of writing was very engaging, and I very much enjoyed your metaphor regarding gun ownership and genital ownership. Further, I think that you made an incredibly important point. Sex education should not simply be a fragment of a health course taught in public school. Sexuality education needs to not only be its own course, but very well may need to be a course that spans multiple portions of the school year, and multiple years of school. It needs to be incorporated into our core education, being taught in more than just one darkly lit room twice a year.

  5. Echoing what Aimee said, I love the gun metaphor. I’ve never thought to compare sexuality with a loaded gun, but it works! Sexuality is very much a powerful weapon that can be used as sport, work, revenge, or pleasure. It is in every aspect of our daily lives, seen on advertisements/TV/movies/magazines/books, and heard in music and everyday conversation. It’s everywhere!! It makes so much sense to be teaching about it everywhere, as opposed to confining it to the walls of a stuffy classroom. This is a wonderfully written article.

  6. First, nice catchy title!

    The author you mention does not appreciate the difference between sex and sexuality, sex being what we do, sexuality being who we are.

    If he understood this difference, he would know we already teach sexuality in schools- it is just not explicit like what kids get in biology class. When I explain to people why I want to study sexuality, I use the idea of an octopus. If sexuality is the body, its tentacles reach into almost every subject: religion, biology, politics, art, public health, economics, pharmaceuticals, psychology, and the list goes on.

    Maybe the challenge is to make the critical thinking necessary to see this a more explicit part of curricula.

  7. First, I love the title of this blog! Very intriguing!
    I agree that sexuality has many different layers! I think this is why many sexuality can be placed in the “cool” category and easily fall into the “taboo” category.
    I believe that there is a lack of responsibility on the parents part in regards to educating their children. Although they may have not been properly educated before, they can always learn new things!
    Technology is at everyone’s finger tips so access to accurate information is not impossible. I wonder what value does these parents place on sexual education? They could learn with their children. This could promoting body and healthy decision making for parent and child.
    I do not want to be naïve about the likelihood of this occurring so I agree that a good way to promote the learning is to have trained professionals incorporate it in schools in a way that is diverse as the topic itself.

  8. This is another great article—your title is brilliant! Thank you for making the correlation on how sexuality is fluid and a constant factor intersecting throughout various areas of our lives. I am all for expanding human sexuality and not just limiting to the few weeks in health class and in certain grades. We are definitely doing our society a disservice by not offering sexuality education in a comprehensive manner across the board. This issue can even correlate with the lack of a sexual health approach/model to help implement public health interventions.

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