When I was growing up, sexual-education class, or sex-ed, was a joke. Sadly, it’s not much better today. In the ’90s, only the binary was presented to us and unfortunately, that is still true today. A modernized curriculum that included sexting, masturbation, cyber-safety, concent, same-sex relationships and gender identity/diversity was introduced in 2015. Unfortunately, it has been repealed at the end of 2018 and Ontario’s Ministry of Education fell back on the curriculum from 1998. Here’s an article describing the current situation in Ontario, Canada.
From what I gathered, conservatives are concerned that the schools are indoctrinating our kids with information that they shouldn’t be exposed to because they “can’t deal with it” or that their children will “buy into” the “trend” that is LGBTQAI+. Before I express my opinion any further, I will share my sex-ed class experience.
My first experience with sex-ed consisted of being gathered into a dark room on a random day without warning. My class was shown black and white outlined projections of the male and female genitalia. The proper words for some of the “important” parts accompanied the drawings; I’m pretty sure clitoris was on the diagram. We were told where sperms and eggs were produced, but I don’t remember information about menstruation being shared. (Thankfully my mother had explained that to me, others weren’t so lucky.) The teachers were purposefully vague. They taught us that you could either be a man or a woman, and that’s it. There was also no information about pleasure, just reproduction. We learned that genitalia were tools to be used carefully.
At the end of the “class”, the teacher gave us a book that we had to read with our parents. It came with a form we had to get signed once we had read it together. It was the worst. I remember a line in the book that read “and then the daddy puts his penis in the mommy’s…” I started crying immediately. I was nine or ten and I did not want to read that with my parents.
Early sex-ed classes didn’t teach us what condoms were. We weren’t told how to have safe sex, what to do if you get pregnant, or anything else. We were told to delay having sex for as long as possible.
Sex-ed summary: Everyone is born a straight man or woman and sex is only had to have children with your partner after marriage.
A few years later, we were told about condoms, HIV and STIs, but I don’t remember much about those classes. I mostly remember learning about not doing drugs and not bullying others. They didn’t say that that we could have genitalia that didn’t look exactly like the ones of the diagrams did. They didn’t tell us we could be born with both sets of genitals. They didn’t even inform us that sizes vary, that boobs come in different shape and colours, and so on. There was no room for different or varied. Just the strict binary norms.
In high school, we got to ask “anonymous” questions to a teacher by writing them on a piece of paper and placing them in a box. Afterwards, the teacher was to answer them in front of the class. The teacher we were assigned to was the same sexist gym teacher who made us do two weeks of Tae Bo and grabbed some of the student’s asses on a ski trip (more on that in my previous post). I don’t remember the question or the answers, but I remember it being very uncomfortable and him being sexist. It was very biased, inaccurate and not educational.
I wish I had been taught way more in sex-ed when I was growing up, but I didn’t have the vocabulary to formulate my questions, or the people to ask questions to. It was daunting. I felt shame in asking about sex. The internet was fairly new and I didn’t think it was an option to search for answers to my questions.
Here’s what I wished I had learned about: sexual harassment, sexual abuse, mental health, masturbation and pleasure, cyber-safety, consent, same-sex relationships and gender identity/diversity.
I am saddened that the modernized Ontario sex-ed curriculum has been repealed. It’s confusing because Ontario’s sexual education website seems to show the updated 2015 version of the curriculum. It’s a big clusterfuck that is leaving everyone confused. We can’t rely on parents to teach kids about these topics. All humans are biased and parents were raised with limited information about many important topics. We want to remove biases and educate our youth to be open-minded and accepting of others and themselves. We should aim to live in a world everyone feels accepted and at home in their body.
This month, January 2019, the Education Minister of Ontario Lisa Thompson said a new curriculum will be developed over the winter of 2019, tested in the spring, and launched in the fall. Let’s hope this is true and that the new curriculum doesn’t exclude any important topics. (Read the full article)
The province might be mucking things up, but some awesome people are bridging the gaps. One great example is my friend, a sex researcher in Canada who hosts a YouTube channel called What’s my body doing. Check out her pleasure inclusive sex-ed videos.
It’s not okay to leave youth in the dark when it comes to their bodies and sexuality. If we don’t give them the answers, they will search for themselves and what they find might be false and destructive. (Example: LGBTQAI + is not a trend and that needs to be clear.) Kids need facts, not a censored draconian version of the world we live in.