I Vote for Sex Ed

 Opinion Letter – #metoo

In July of 2020, a new wave of denunciations of sexual assault, harassment and sexual violence created a storm on Québec social media.

By Noémie-Jade Fisher-Chonière, age 20

Photo: Frédéric Lebeuf

After the “aggression non dénoncée,” “yes all women,”  “stop culture du viol,” and “me too” movements, women are still breaking the silence and to share their suffering in solidarity with other victims. These are stories that repeat themselves year after year, without any real change happening in society.

Why?

The justice system is still dangerous for those with the courage to make a complaint. They return people back to their traumatic events. Even when complainants have completed all the necessary steps to make their aggressor pay, they can’t stop the holes in the justice system from letting people get away. We saw proof of that last December when Gilbert Rozon and Éric Salvail were acquitted. Seeing these high-profile acquittals does nothing to make one confident that justice will prevail.

At school, I spent hours being told that I needed to use protection during sexual relations in order to avoid catching diseases. But was I ever told about abuse, harassment, sexual coercion or even consent? Never.

Photo: Frédéric Lebeuf

None of these conferences prepared me for what I was going to see, to the profound malaise I was going to feel, to the lack of resources and of people to listen that I was going to confront. Nor did any of it prepare me for the impact that it would have on my future relationships, not to mention my life as a whole.

I couldn’t conceive that in a society that tries to do better, we don’t take the time to educate our kids on subjects much more worrying than some of these sexual infections we can clear up with a prescription.

Lack of Education

Respecting a no; the importance of consent in any situation, even within a couple; the normalization of a drop in libido; asexuality; verbal and non-verbal harassment; these are some of the topics that should be taught in Quebec schools.

Without education on these basic notions, we end up trivializing and even accepting certain behaviors when we shouldn’t accept them. Ignorance of the fact that it’s possible to not crave the other person sexually even though you love them incites the victim to think that they’re the problem. Which means they will cede to the advances of the other, thinking it’s normal.

And yet it’s easy to raise these subjects in morality or history courses, such as when the topic of women’s liberation is discussed. Let’s replace one of these mandatory courses with a frank discussion of sex ed, so we don’t have to learn this stuff through trial and error without the necessary tools and resources.

Invisible Resources

The resources available to victims of sexual assault aren’t well known. If you’re a victim, what are your options? Are you going to wait for a new societal trend to happen to denounce your aggressor? How do you raise the subject with those close to you? A lack of education sometimes brings us to react in ways that are less suited after a frank admission is made. That can cause resentment, and doesn’t make the victim’s task any easier. A victim needs support.

For example: friends can be ill at ease, joke around, or even say it happened a long time ago and that we should forget it now. This type of a reply hurts the victim. How can we hope that teenagers will accept these avowals in the right manner if they haven’t been taught how? Do we think teens should learn everything on their own?

When I was in school I was encouraged to take general courses so that, when I became an adult, I could do specialized courses that really interest me. Why not use the same technique with taboo topics? The school system should teach the basics of these subjects so that those who want to pursue their research into specific sexual subjects can. This would create an aware, informed society.

A Commitment

How many victims will reveal their stories on social media before we can instill, from childhood, a program to prevent all forms of harassment? How many individuals will have to satisfy themselves with a “We believe you,” instead of getting concrete help to heal their wound? How many public celebrities have to be denounced before we realize how pervasive the rape culture is?

From this day forth, I commit myself to passing on my knowledge, as well as continuing to read and educate myself on sexuality and the concept of consent. I commit myself to doing everything in my power to improve society without waiting for those who have the power to make the same commitment and take concrete steps. You do it, too, because we’ll only protect future generations if we do it altogether.    

 First seen in: Reflet de société, Vol. 29, no. 2, February 2021, pages 26-27.

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