SMOKE: The Ins And Outs Of Sex Education
Originally published: 4 November 2005
I read an article on Australian newspaper Northern Territory News' website yesterday about how a sex education manual intended for 16-year old schoolchildren was accidentally distributed to kids at a primary school.
The booklet - which was approved by the Department of Education in Australia for 16-year old schoolkids - contains plenty of graphic sex advice, including information about oral and anal sex, how to use a condom, masturbation and more.
There was even a section on injecting drug use, with the following quote:
Using drugs by injecting them is a health risk, so if a person is going to use drugs they should consider taking them in other ways (swallow, snort or smoke it).
All true of course, but a mother who found the booklet in her son's bag reckons she doesn't need her son knowing about any of that at age 10.
The mother pointed out that there was information regarding the morning after pill, which she thinks is a bit much for an 11-year old girl to be learning.
Turns out it was all a mistake and the booklets are being recalled, but it did get me wondering about what the right age is to start educating kids about sex, as well as how you should teach it to them and how much information you should give.
The mother in the story reckons she and her husband read about sexual practices in the booklet that not even they knew anything about, which begs the question: are informational manuals really glorified How To manuals?
It's like drug education - teaching kids what kinds of highs certain drugs produce is far more likely to encourage them to experience those highs rather than to shun drugs in horror, something Ali G cunningly comments on in his TV show.
How much of an involvement in sex education should a school have? Should there be any sex education in schools whatsoever, or is it the task of parents?
I never got the Birds and Bees speech - sex was never discussed, mentioned nor condoned in our family, and I think the same can be said for most Catholic families.
The Pope doesn't like sex, you see - he thinks it's dirty and sinful. Something to be ashamed of and hidden. Sins of the flesh, and whatnot. Procreation Only. Kondoms Streng Verboten.
I sort of figured sex out on my own when I first became aware of other uses for certain body parts at around age 11, but I was helped along by the cunning placement of a book on my bookshelf by my mother, entitled Everywoman.
I doubt it was intended for teenage boys - it was more a comprehensive manual for women, covering everything from sex to pregnancy to weight, age, menopause and the works.
It had loads of helpful diagrams which gave me a very clear, detailed, precise understanding of female bits and pieces and how to use them.
Once I'd read that book cover-to-cover for the 1000th time (porn wasn't readily accessible back then, you understand) I had a fair grasp of the sexual situation.
Put it this way - if called upon to engage in sex I would have slotted the correct implement into the appropriate repository.
But that's as far as my understanding went - a clinical assessment of how to do what. Nowhere did it explain how to deal with a chick who weeps when she climaxes, or one who wants to be scratched, slapped and bitten when having sex, or how to truly satisfy someone.
That you have to learn along the way, unfortunately, a path which often leads to heartbreak and misery.
School sex education only came in our final year, in biology - the chapter was entitled Human Reproduction, and when the day came for that class you'd never seen such attentive, rapt and well-behaved pupils.
But if you didn't do biology you didn't get sex education, as far as I remember. Bible studies - sure. But no sex education. Teaching kids to be repressed by blindly following without questioning is obviously more important to the education authorities than teaching them basic life skills.
I'm sure that's all changed now, which brings us full circle to the question of when kids should be introduced to sex education, and what they should be taught.
I've been thinking about that mother in Australia and her 10-year old kid learning about anal sex, and I understand her pain. But surely that kid is going to hear all about anal sex long before he gets to 16 - does it not make sense to give him a proper education about it rather than the advice and ill-informed knowledge of his friends?
You can protect your kid from frank sexual stuff all you like at home, and you can even send him to a school that doesn't offer sex education.
But you can't stop his mates from chatting about it and if all your advice is coming from a bunch of 11-year old boys you're going to run into trouble, mate.
I don't have a kid and my younger brothers and sisters are all grown up now, so I have no idea where kids currently are in terms of sexual awareness. From all the reports and surveys and whatnot that I read it seems as though kids are trying sex at much younger ages than when I was at school - at age 17 I was just getting my first snog, and that was all I'd ever asked for.
These days they're getting younger and younger and when you consider that not even late teens know anywhere near as much about sex as they think they do - imagine the sexual nightmares younger teens are undergoing.
Peer pressure is there - always has been, always will be. You can teach your kid all the morals and values in the world, but if they fall in with a 'bad crowd' - however innocently - they're in grave danger of being unable to say no.
If they're going to be using condoms, surely they should be taught the correct way to use them? Fumbling about with them and not knowing what you're doing could cause them to break, and suddenly you've got a kid who's pregnant.
If they're having sex at age 11, then I would offer that age 11 is the perfect age to begin sex education. Eleven seems to be a key number throughout this article, and horrifying as it is to contemplate 11-year olds doing anything other than reading Enid Blyton and scraping their knees, reality must be faced.
Sex is everywhere, all across the globe, and with so much information and misinformation kids must be confused as hell.
Teaching them How To may well be encouraging sex, but it will hopefully also save them if you teach them correctly.
None of it will stop the kid at the party with the girl and no condom, unfortunately. That's just human nature.
All Smoked Out,