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
“We don’t teach sex the same way we teach math,” laughs Annie Caron. This sex therapist thinks that part of the sex ed curriculum should be taught by teachers, but that more sensitive subjects should be taught by sex therapists. These topics would include assaults as well as overall sexual issues such as orgasms, pleasure, etc. “At least, let the sex therapists raise some of the more delicate issues.”
For his part Sébastien Morin, a phys ed teacher at the Oasis elementary school in Lachute, thinks that a sex therapist is necessary in a high school setting: “Sex is a part of everyday life for a teenager. At age 14, young people begin to have sexual relations. I think that has a huge impact on the bonds of friendship and students’ reputations, and on their self-confidence. You need a resource person to confide in because at that age they have trouble talking to their parents. In elementary school, they’re too young.”
Other teachers, like high school history teacher Sylvie Richer, think that the responsibility for teaching about sex falls equally to teachers and parents. “But there are parents who aren’t capable of doing it,” Richer says. “So the school is there. Schools should go beyond topics like condoms and diseases. They should also talk about pleasure and love, among other things.”
Some teachers are ill at ease at teaching such courses. “It’s tough to intervene, especially as a man,” says Sébastien Morin. “A lot of my colleagues are uneasy about this. They aren’t trained to teach the subject. A teacher once told me that if there were a training course available, he’d take it. Professors have no idea what subjects you should raise with kids, nor how to talk about them.”
This fear of communicating information badly could delay the implementation of sex ed courses in Québec schools scheduled for next fall. The government is going to leave schools the choice of whether or not to stick to the curriculum they provide.
“The time to teach these courses, and the budget, are also problems the government didn’t consider,” says sex therapist Annie Caron. “There’s no slot in the schedule set aside for sex ed. Teachers will have to cut into their own courses to teach it.”