Since 2001, sex ed has not been a compulsory subject in our schools. Young Quebecers get their information on this topic in different ways. Some attend conferences; others speak with their parents or surf the web to get answers to their questions.
By Mélina Soucy
“Sexuality is still a taboo subject among young people,” says Audrey, a Secondary 4 student at the Polyvalente des Deux-Montagnes. “We don’t hear it talked about enough to be at ease with the subject. I think that courses on sexuality should be brought back to the schools to reassure children, and to educate them.”
The 28 students, aged around 16, in history teacher Sylvie Richer’s class are open to discussing sexuality. But they remain ill at ease with the subject. Only about a dozen of them participate actively in the discussion. The others submitted their opinions in writing.
For Alexie, it needs to be talked about in school, because “when you begin an intimate relationship with someone, you realize that you don’t know a whole lot about sexuality.”
Her classmate Justine has some very specific demands for the government: “They have to put a much bigger plan into place to teach sexuality, something better than simply telling us how to protect ourselves from sexually transmitted diseases. Sexuality is comprised of a lot of elements. It’s more than just a condom and a disease. There’s the relationship between two partners, their orientation, their environment, their consent, and lots more.”
Though a majority of students want to see sex ed back in the schools, some have reservations.
“I think it’d be better if sex ed was a workshop so that people who aren’t ready to see what there is to see aren’t marked for life,” suggests Valsorim, who says he’s at ease with the subject. But his classmate Mahau thinks that “it’s important to talk about it, without exaggeration.” He thinks that talking about it too much becomes redundant for a teenager.
From the beginning of their education, this class has only received small bits of information about sexuality. “In elementary school, they only tell us about puberty,” says Tristan.
Tilky recalls: “They also taught us this song that goes: My body, it’s my body and not yours. We weren’t quite sure what it was about. We even invented an ending: If you want to touch it, it’ll cost you $2.20!”
In high school, most of the information the students got came from the school nurse and science teachers, on contraception methods, STDs, and genital organs. “We also had three conferences,” Justine recalls. “One on conjugal violence, and two on consent.”
It is remarkable how only the problematic aspects of sex had been dealt with in school.