Sex ed. in high school is usually met with the same uncomfortable hesitation that students feel back in middle school when we first start learning about the vas deferns and the vulva and the (* gasp *) clitoris. From grade 8 to grade 9, we hardly change that much, so its not surprising that certain words still send the odd giggle or blank gaze of nervousness through the room. But as we turn into young adults, there seems to be a newfound respect and understanding for our bodies as we get accustomed to them.
Sex is new to us, and should be taught accordingly. As we get closer and closer to becoming adults, being sexually active also draws near. But does sex ed. in high school really prepare us for that? Perhaps academics won’t be the only thing we’re behind on when we reach university.
A new type of sex ed. class was adopted in a small private school in Philadelphia, PA. The course is called Human Sexuality, and is offered as an elective for grade 12 students. In addition to similar material as we learned in grade 9 health, their class talks about the various emotional consequences of engaging in sexual activity, as well as the physical benefits. The students of the class often openly discuss their own relationship issues, and ask whatever questions they have about their bodies and certain feelings they may have regarding their actions and the actions of others within a sexual relationship.
The Ontario Board of Education mandates strictly “disaster prevention” sexual education. Why don’t we also learn about the emotional worst-case scenarios about sex? Most people I know who have had issues with engaging in sex had nothing to do with forgetting to use a condom. The main thing I got out of sex ed was “Don’t have sex because if you do you’ll get pregnant or herpes or Chlamydia and die but if you really want to and think you’re ready for all that emotional responsibility then please just wear a condom and, no, the pull-n-pray is not a legitimate form of contraception”. And I don’t feel like I am alone in this.
What we need to make this transitional period in our lives easier, and perhaps less awkward, is a sex ed program that is more open to different types of relationships, one that helps us understand the good and bad in both the physical and the emotional side of sex, not one that only forces us to be reminded of fetuses and gonorrhea and syphilis when we think of actually engaging in sexual behaviour. If they want us to be productive and well-adjusted adults, shouldn’t we be literate not only in reading and math, but our own bodies too?