Education and sexuality in our schools is a hot potato topic.
By Elizabeth Cazelais and Florence Valiquette-Savoie, sex therapists
– The teachers should be responsible for it.
– No, no, it should be up to each school principal to choose how the next generation should be sexually educated, and to find the necessary resources.
– Hmmm, and parents, what’s their role? “Why are we talking about such intimate things at school? That should be done in the home!”
– Then the teachers’ unions get involved: “Oh, pardon, oh no, no, it seems to us that teachers are already overloaded!”
– The sex therapists remind everyone that they’ve received training: “Yes, hello here! Mister Education Minister and the whole tra-la-la, we’d like the mandate, if you please!”
Community organizations and nurses want their slice of the pie as well.
Ouf, and yes, the professionals want in too.
– The Education Minister bangs his gavel, putting an end to proceedings: “There will be sex ed in Québec schools in September of 2019.”
The message is clear, but less so, the “how”…
Behind this whole big fight lies a question: Why teach sexuality in schools at all?
Quebec’s 1961 Parent Report led to sweeping reforms in the province’s education sector. The whole system was democratized, and a basic right to an education was established. But it’s clear today that only certain materials or certain themes were democratized.
Sexual education is not available to everyone, whether because of values, a lack of funds, a lack of professional resources, or a lack of time.
Our body’s cycles are no less important to us than the Pythagorean Theorem. Knowing the rules of conjugating the verbs “être” and “avoir” is as important as knowing the rules of sexual consent. Knowing how to denounce a sexual abuser can be learned, just as you can learn how to play badminton in phys ed class.
Talking about abuse and sexual assault; naming the parts of the genital organs; discussing pleasure and desires; debating sexual diversity; arguing about sexual exploitation, all of this allows one to sharpen one’s critical faculties, to increase one’s knowledge, to prepare for the future – and all with the goal of preventing abuse, rape, violence while promoting good sexual health.
It’s well recognized that preventative sex ed reduces risks at all levels.
Sex ed is more than just talking about sex. It’s about knowing and respecting yourself and others! Sex ed proposes:
Knowledge: Anatomy, including the physiology of the genital organs; an understanding of the phenomena of puberty and pregnancy; key elements in a healthy, equal love relationship; the laws concerning consent; STDs and how they are transmitted; protection methods against diseases – from abstinence to dental dams by way of internal and external condoms…
Savoir-faire: Don’t leave in fear; teaching teens to use condoms properly; and not how to masturbate or make love properly, for some things are just too private…
Know-how: respect the other person’s consent, or their “no”; be attentive to their needs, their desires and their limits – and yours!
So back to our question: Why teach sex ed in our schools?
To ensure that everyone will have the same chance to get to know themselves, respect themselves, and get to know and respect others; to give everyone an equal chance.