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Sex Ed

I'm a big fan in trusting in the intelligence and capabilities of our youth. My quick visit to Europe in 1996 showed me that young people could be trusted to handle things in a responsible, mature fashion. Their drinking age is twelve or so, and yet they have very few problems with alcohol. They talk about sex openly and have comparatively fewer problems with teenage sex, pregnancy, and disease than we have in the US.

It is because of this reason, as well as my own upbringing and the upbringing of my friends, that I disagree with what Jeff says in "Kids change attitudes". His opinion is based on the presumption laid out in a quote from this article:

Back before I had kids, I was one of those naive people who would say things like "I'm going to let my kids make their own decisions when it comes to sex. Yea, I'm going to be a cool parent." And then I had a kid and that idea went to hell. To make matters worse, I had a daughter. Suddenly, the idea of being casual about my kids having sex seemed ludicrous.

Compare this with my own stance:

Back before I had kids, I was one of those naive people who would say things like "I'm going to let my kids make their own decisions when it comes to sex. Yea, I'm going to be a cool parent." And then I had a kid and that idea was affirmed. To make things better, I had a daughter. Suddenly, the thought and planning I had put into having good conversations and teaching my children about sex, and the respect I'd given them all their life, seemed to be well worth it.

In other words, "letting your kids make their own decisions about sex" is not the same thing as "being casual about your kids having sex." Educate your kids and they'll make the right choice.

Jeff continues with his own thoughts, which I will snippetize here for you:

The problem is that I don't think your average 15-year-old is capable of making that distinction. I don't think your average pubescent kid is ready to internalize the fact that some things will be okay in ten years but are not okay now.

I disagree, and I do think that a properly prepared 15-year old is capable of making that decision. Kids are incredibly receptive, incredibly open, and incredibly intelligent. Treating them as anything but is a sure way to encourage the rebellious behavior we hear about so often, and, for a teenager, rebellion often means sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll.

We, as adults, have a choice. We can either enable childhood sexuality or we can discourage it.

Children are naturally sexual whether you believe Freud or not. Adolescents and young adults, which is what Jeff is talking about - not "children" - are sexual too. Children, for example, discover that their genital area can be a source of pleasure at a very early age - oftentimes before they can talk and then throughout childhood and their pubescent years.

Young adults are bombarded with "sexuality" every day. As a parent, you will not be able to prevent your offspring from seeing the Christina Aguileras of their generation. You won't be able to prevent them from seeing the clothes their peers wear (and those available for sale at the mall). Sexuality is a part of life, and pretending that it doesn't exist is akin to shoving your child into a war without a weapon. Their battle field is high school and the necessary weapon is a little bit of knowledge coupled with the raw intelligence that everyone possesses.

The issue is not black or white - you can discuss sexuality without "enabling" it. I want to enable my children to make intelligent choices, if for no other reason than because discouraging them from doing so seems to be the most sure way to guarantee such "bad" behavior.

Think about toilet training. Do we reason with our two-year-olds? Do we sit down and tell them all about poop, and what the pros and cons of poop are, and let them make their own choices about where to poop? Sex is bad. It's dirty and scary and wrong. Don't do it. End of lesson.

A commenter summarized this one pretty well:

You likened the mental state of a 15 year old to that of a 2 year old who's shitting itself. Never heard that one before. Heh.

I don't believe that it's in the parent's best interests to disrespect his offspring. I don't believe that it's in my best interests as a parent to treat my children as stupid, incapable, or undeserving. I don't believe it's in my best interests to assume that simply because I'm older, I know better.

Sex in my day and age was different than sex for my parents, and sex for my children will be different than sex for me. My kids will know best what pressures they're facing, what they want to do, and what they do not know. They'll know that they can come and talk to me. They'll know that I can answer questions, and that I can guide them, but that I won't overstep into controlling them. They'll know that I love, respect, and admire them.

There will always be teens who get pregnant or diseased. I'll do my best to make sure they aren't my kids, and that involves an education that goes beyond "sex is like shitting yourself."

11 Responses to "Sex Ed"

  1. Adolescents and young adults, which is what Jeff is talking about - not "children" - are sexual too.

    A young adult is a 23-year-old. The word "adolescent" simply means "one who is growing" or "one who is not yet grown."

    Let us not cloud the issue with obfuscation. We're talking about children here. Not adults, not some special, imaginary class of human being between a child and an adult. Children.

    I say this with great love and respect: you're still pretty young yourself, Erik. Wait ten years and then see whether your attitude on this subject has changed.

    End of rebuttal. 😉

  2. If I'm still "pretty young" myself, then perhaps that qualifies me more to talk about what works on teens. My attitude will never allow me to reasonably compare sex ed to potty training.

  3. Double Dutch.

  4. Yet you are voting for a man who has removed all references to condoms from all federal websites in favor of abstinence only, and bans federal funding to programs which are not abstinence only.

    I still don't get your Bush vote, sorry 🙂

  5. Clef, not to get too picky, but what part of the Constitution authorizes the federal government to provide sex education to the populace? Whether you prefer condoms or abstinence, it ain't the federal government's business.

  6. I'm about 4 months away from becoming a parent myself, so I have a particular interest in this subject. Too many times I've seen parents who have told their children, daughters primarily, that sex was wrong, evil, etc. It was the thing not to do. Usually, these kids were very troubled when it came to discussing sexuality without a giggle when they were in their late teens. That's pretty sad.

    I'm plan on being very honest and open with my daughter on the subject because I want her to not be afraid of something that is natural. I'm not going to tell her to specifically wait until marriage, but I'm not going to tell her hump everyone in sight either.

    Being open and honest about sex, and teaching your values without being condesending is key to healthy view about sex.

  7. does any get the double dutch reference?

  8. Sadly, your opening paragraph about the attitudes to drink and sex in Europe do not apply to the UK.

    Here in Britain:

    No-one gets educated about sex... so we have the highest teenage pregnancy and abortion rate in Europe.You can't drink in public until you're 18 and the pubs close at 11:00... so there's a culture of binge drinking that makes the centers of some cities no-go areas for people just out to have a nice evening.

  9. Gather a group of 100 15 year-olds together and I'll bet you find some that come across as ten year-olds, while others have the maturity of an 18-20 year-old. I'm willing to bet that the latter are the ones that have been treated with respect by their parents.

    When it comes to teaching my kids the Facts of Life (not just sex), I follow my father's example: If you're old enough to ask, then you are old enough to get a straight answer. I don't try and program them with my moral values, instead I try and present many people's points of vie, then tell them what I think.

    The only issue that I actively take an unbalanced view about is religion. All the schools in my town are Church of England schools and they continually pump God, Angels and Jesus into their heads, against my will.

    I believe you should let people make up their own minds about the religion-thing when they are at an age when they can make their own decision to believe, or not. So I go to great lengths to tell my kids about other religions, about the history and politics of religions, about the fact that there are good nuggets in those stories, about the fact that religion has been used to justify both good and evil actions, about the fact that a lot of it made sense when it was codified, but that we live in a different world now and we have to take that into account.

    I don't rant against religion, though I am, fiercely; I try and give them a bigger picture than the state-sponsored, school programmers do and advise them to make their own minds up when they know a lot more.

  10. A young adult is a 23-year-old. The word "adolescent" simply means "one who is growing" or "one who is not yet grown."

    I am 20, and I no longer consider myself a 'young adult'. I find it quite offensive that I would be judged as anything other than an adult. I can buy alcohol, cigarettes and even get a mortgage.

    I didn't get in to any relationships until 17, and held off on sex until 19. Why? I didn't (and to a degree still don't) see them as relevant. I personally attribute this to my upbringing - at an early age (11) I went through a fairly comprehensive sex ed course. I knew about what happens, and it wasn't that interesting. Of course, if I was interested I would have known about condoms and things.

    The bottom line is that no degree of telling people not to do something will stop them (when your mum told you not to eat the biscuits what did you immediately want to do?). The only way to lower the teen pregnancy rate is to make them aware of the consequences and the preventative measures they can take.

    Of course, we could remove the glamour that surrounds sex, but the media won't like that as it makes things sell…

  11. I think sex ed should not be taught to kids 12 or younger.they start trieing it and by the time they reach 14,most of them aren't virgins!!!!!I find that truly disturbing.i am only 13!no sex talk,please!


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