Before I start, here is a trigger warning: I am going to talk about sex. Sex is that subject that the Texas Board of Education finds unacceptable to speak of in any way other than abstinence. This week in their esteemed wisdom, members of that board decided the only thing sex is good for is procreation and transmission of disease.
These people must lead very sullen lives, avoiding sex and sexual pleasure and living in constant fear of unwanted pregnancy and catching an STI.
And these sad people are making decisions for your children.
They are deeming that discussion of sexual pleasure, birth control, gender identity and sexual orientation is inappropriate content for students. That’s what they did this week when they declined to preliminarily adopt middle and high school health instructional curriculums that touched on those topics.
This decision leaves school districts to fend for themselves in the dark on how to carry out the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) standards that were adopted last November. It is a guideline that is already woefully lacking in details beyond abstinence and sexually transmitted disease.
A comprehensive sex education must include topics beyond STIs and abstinence. Teaching students only the worst possible outcome from sexual activity gives them a poor understanding of what sex is about.
Denying students access to accurate information on contraception has been shown over and over to be ineffective in preventing unwanted pregnancy. Refusing to discuss gender identity and sexual orientation leaves some students marginalized and contributes to problems they may have later in life.
And then there is the matter of consent. The curriculum teaches refusal skills but fails to teach real consent in a sexual relationship. If you went by the current guidelines, you can only say “no” to sex.
But what happens if you are a teenager and want to say “yes” to sex?
Without good negotiation skills it becomes an all-or-nothing situation. More than once, I have heard the excuse, “Well, she said yes” as a defense when what happened was far from what was originally consented to.
Without teaching the wide spectrum of what constitutes sex, students are left with no alternative but “penis in vagina” sex. We are ceding the curriculum to the playground and the internet by avoiding comprehensive sex education.
By only teaching students the “bad” part of sex, they are left with discovering that we lied by omitting the positive aspects of sex. Guess what: Students know we are lying already, and they will look for their information elsewhere.
That’s where porn comes in.
Porn is readily available to anyone, and if it is seen as simply an erotic fantasy, it remains just that — a fantasy. However, if we look to adult videos as educational material, we have a real problem.
Most porn was never intended to illustrate healthy relationships; they are works of fiction and the performers are actors. Though they are having sex on screen, they are acting! Students looking to porn as their sex education will receive a very distorted view of what sex is about.
Why would we do this to our children? Why would we send them into the world only fearing sex?
How can we expect them to develop healthy relationships as adults if they only know what we taught them is how to say “no”?
Why would we leave them unprepared to understand their own gender identity and sexual orientation?
Texas schools are really doing a disservice to our young people by denying comprehensive sex education. We are only kicking the problem down the road. It will resurface in unrealistic attitudes toward sex and unhealthy relationships in the future.
To those folks who are rallying against even the inadequate sex education being proposed, I would ask these questions:
Do you only have sex for procreation?
Do you understand how to negotiate sex?
Do you tell the truth to your children when they ask about sex?
Are you happy with your own sex life?
My intuition tells me if they were being honest, they would answer “no” to all of them. And so, we will have another generation of young people who are left to learn about sex on their own and who will feel forever uncomfortable talking about it. They will in turn perpetrate that ignorance and attitude to their children as well.
Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and chairperson of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance board. His blog is at DungeonDiary.blogspot.com.