EDITOR's note: UPDATE, January 9, 2015
Thanks to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, Ontario's new sex-ed curriculum is now going to include discussions of consent and gender equality. There's a huge cultural conversation going on right now about sexual harassment and violence (go to Project97.ca for some powerful stories), and that conversation should be starting with our kids at home and in the classroom. Check back soon for more news on this frankly awesome development.
READ OUR ORIGINAL POST HERE:
In the past 15 years, the Internet, sexting, easier access to pornography and the acceptance of same-sex couples has become a part of our kids’ daily lives. And yet, the sex education curriculum in our schools does not reflect any of this.
Read more: Learning about sex through social media>
Three years ago, a new curriculum proposal was shelved in Ontario due to an outcry by conservatives and Christian leaders. They were upset by the notion that kindergarten students would be taught the proper names of body parts. The curriculum would have also taught diversity—including same-sex relationships—in grade three, and would have provided middle-school students with information on safe sex practices, including references to oral and anal sex. The outdated sex ed. curriculum currently taught in Ontario schools is the oldest in Canada.
Now, the Ministry of Education is asking parents—one per elementary school—their opinions about what the new sex ed. curriculum should look like. Since I won’t be the parent who is asked to fill out the online survey, I am going to tell them right here.
I want the new curriculum to take into account the progressive and social mores of the day. Of course kids in grade one should be taught the correct names for their body parts. To do otherwise is ridiculous. We know that kids who know the names of their body parts are less likely to be sexually abused. So this does not even merit discussion.
Read more: What should toddlers call their body parts?>
Kids should absolutely be taught the mechanics of sex at a young age. They will not lose their innocence by understanding the concept of how babies are made. Parents can’t keep their heads in the sand forever—if you haven’t talked to your kids about sex, there is a good chance that their schoolyard friends have filled them in on all the details. The Internet may already be involved in their quest for the truth.
The curriculum should reflect the reality of families in today's society: Families can have one parent, two parents, three parents, same-sex parents. Families are brought together by love. Today’s sex ed. curriculum doesn't include lessons on diversity and tolerance. This is unacceptable.
Today’s generation of kids are the most sexually literate ever, but they are getting a lot of disturbing mixed messages. Gender stereotypes, over-sexualization and rape culture surround our children in the news and popular culture. Their favourite websites—even those they accidentally stumble upon—are full of ads, photos and music videos with questionable content. They need adult guidance to make sense of all the images, jokes and innuendo they come across. If kids can’t turn to you for help, would you prefer they do their own searches on the Internet? Schools should also have educators that are well-trained and accepting of kids’ need for knowledge and understanding.
A common and dangerous misconception that underscores sex ed is that "boys will be boys" and girls need to be "protected." It underestimates the abilities and desires of both genders. Adults know that sex is about pleasure and connecting with another person on a deeper emotional level—so why do we hide that from our kids?
A good sexual education curriculum does not encourage kids to have sex at a young age, instead it helps them understand their bodies. And underlying all these conversations about sex would be discussions on consent. When kids are young, we teach them strict boundaries. But as kids get older, things get more complicated and consent gets wrapped up in fear, peer pressure and desire. We need to empower our children with the language that explains what a "yes" means and what a firm "no" means. Sex is as much about conversation as it is about getting physical, so give kids the lessons on what that language sounds like.
Our culture is telling our children that sex is about sinful pleasure and conquest. If we don’t mirror those conversations in our homes and classrooms with equally engaging conversations about pleasure and equality, then we have done our future generations a great disservice.
In the modern world, sex ed. has to be about more than just biology. We can’t be afraid to let our educators do their job and teach kids about sexual pleasure, consent and responsibility. Talking to our kids about sex is not for the faint of heart—these are difficult conversations, there's no denying that. But it’s the least we can do to prepare them for the inevitable next phase of their lives.
Read more: When your child starts masturbating>