A few years back, the McGuinty Liberals in Ontario proposed a new sex ed curriculum for the province, one that would start in Grade One.
Naturally, people lost their shit, because Grade One students couldn’t possibly be taught about … (whisper it with me now).. sex.. in a nuanced and age-appropriate manner. Around me I saw parents react as though they were going to be showing Debbie Does Dallas to six-year-olds.
However, the curriculum outline was much more well thought out than that. The Grade One curriculum would introduce basic anatomy including body parts and their proper names. Grade Three would introduce homosexuality – as in, ‘Hey. This is a thing that exists.’ and ‘Some kids have two mommies or two daddies’. Grade Five would cover reproduction and introduce masturbation. Grade Seven and Eight classes might touch on Oral and Anal sex.
The original articles I cited when I wrote about this back in 2010 are gone, but I did find a link to the proposed curriculum.
At the time I felt like this kind of curriculum made a lot of sense and was a nice step from the last curriculum update, which had been in 1997. It didn’t operate in a strictly heterosexist, heteronormative paradigm, introducing kids to concepts such as homosexuality and transgenderism on a level appropriate to kids. Granted, how well these concepts would have been communicated by teachers we’ll never know, as the curriculum was abandoned after less than three days under pressure from conservative groups that were concerned with pre-teens ‘getting lessons in anal sex’.
One of the phrases that jumped out at me in reading about this was, as opposed to abstinence as taught by many sex education curricula, the idea of ‘delayed sexual activity’. It seems to put across the idea that sex is going to happen, but let’s just try and put it off a bit, until you’re good and ready.
I have a confession to make. As a parent, the idea of my kids as sexual beings, scares the beejeebus out of me. It’s coming though, I know it. My oldest one, at eleven, has discovered ‘boys’ and while she enjoys the attention, she thankfully still makes faces at the thought of anything beyond hand-holding.
It’s coming though. I’d like to be able to put it off as long as possible.
I talk with my kids a lot, and I’m pretty candid with them. I’ve had numerous puberty talks and we’ve had numerous ‘Where babies come from?’ talks and a few ‘How do babies get there?’ talks and at least one ‘Dear God, how you NOT get babies there?’ talk. I’ve talked to them about consent and about how no one is allowed to touch them without their permission. I’ve talked about secrets and how if anyone tells them to keep a secret from me or their dad that they should tell us immediately, even if it does ruin a few surprise parties. I’ve talked to them about masturbation and how it’s totally cool and okay, just not in the living room in front of company.
I wish I could find a way to just say ‘Please, for your mother’s sake don’t do it.’ without making them feel like sex is dirty or shameful. Because I don’t fear them having sex so much as facing the issues that sometimes go with it. Coercion. I don’t necessarily expect them to buy into the idea ‘your first time should be special, and full of feeeeelings’.
But your first time, if at all possible, should be on your own terms. It should be safe. Without fear. Because you’re there and you’re ready and you really want this. I don’t want them to feel coerced, or unsafe, or unable to walk away.
I fear unplanned pregnancy. I can have all the birth control talks with them I want, but that doesn’t rule out the possibility that most, namely hormonal-based methods may not even be an option due to family history. I fear them having to face an unplanned pregnancy. None of the options are pleasant. Raising a child in your teens, abortion, adoption – none of these are wrong choices, but none of them seem like particularly pleasant choices.
I don’t want them to delay their sexual lives out of some kind of moral obligation or some arbitrary idea of purity. It’s a protectiveness thing I suppose. I just want their lives to stay… uncomplicated, or as uncomplicated as possible, until they are both fully ready to take that kind of responsibility on.
Is it possible to encourage kids to wait to have sex (whatever ‘sex’ may entail – not referring strictly to PIV) without being shame-y about it?
(I just want to mention that this probably comes across as fairly heteronormative in assuming that both kids will be in heterosexual relationships. I’m not taking it for granted, I’ve actually given great consideration to the possibility that my kids could fall anywhere on the spectrum and I’d be totally supportive.)