Saturday, January 15, 2011

"Sex" is not an "adult" activity

So here's something that, in discussions online, I have seen come up again and again that really annoys me: the idea that "sex" is "for adults."

In fact, the idea that sex is ONLY for adults is something that is really pervasive in U.S. culture. We often use "adult" as a stand-in for "sexual," and in most states the "age of consent" is 18, which is our arbitrary decision of when people become "adults."

Before that threshold, apparently, we can't legally be trusted to make important decisions for our lives; our parents, in fact, know better than us what we need. (That idea is worthy of a whole other post but if you're interested there's good writing on it going on here, here [of this fame] and here, just to name a few.)

And so we take for granted this idea that "sex" is something that adults, and only adults, do. Or at least, we take that as the *BEST* way. Most people I know are *resigned* to the fact that children do things like masturbate, have sexual fantasies and desires, and have sexual experiences with a partner or partners. But see, even they, most of the time, are resigned to that fact. This is something that happens, though it isn't the *ideal.*  This is why even comprehensive programs of sex ed stress abstinence, because "childhood" abstinence is held up as the ideal.

Even so, I'm now starting to think I lived in the golden age of sex education in USian public school, given the reports coming out of the high schools in my area NOW as compared to when I went to school (a whopping 9 years ago)... And even in my classes, sex was presented as something we should probably avoid, but if we didn't, here, we'll help protect you from the dangers. And of course, dangers they actively protected us (white, suburban, middle class, Californian us, for the most part) from were: pregnancy and STD's.

This approach is what made me want to write my own damn curriculum. Because (among other things) do you know, we never discussed consent?  Weird, huh?

(Again...a whole other post...)

(And did we ever consider or include non cis, non hetero classmates? Um, no.)

But see, we never discussed consent because one of the foundational ideas of the courses was that "well, we're not going to teach kids HOW to have sex!"

(Oh gods how many times I've heard that phrase.)

And therein lies the origin of my problem.

This idea that sex is something that only adults do means that we are consistently resistant to anything that smacks of "teaching our kids HOW to have sex".

What does that mean to the lives of all those who are under 18?

And hell, even 18 and older, because after 18 years of being taught "this is something we don't talk about" we don't suddenly become comfortable talking about it; let's be real on that point.

So what happens is we end up in a situation where, most people, come to this place where we WANT to have sex and we have no idea how to even begin to go about it.  How do we talk to someone about this thing we're not supposed to talk about?  Maybe it's easier just NOT to talk about it, eh?  We can like, just go for it, right?  If they don't want to be kissed or touched they'll slap us or say no, right?  (That's how it goes in the movies.)

Surely you see where this all leads right?

Which is why we have to, HAVE TO, tell kids HOW to have sex, and stop thinking that sex isn't something non-adults are curious about, thinking about, desiring, and, doing.

Because healthy sexual relationships (at whatever age, in whatever form) aren't built in silence.

Because we need a healthy foundation to make good decisions for ourselves.

And because, ironically, if you aren't teaching kids how to communicate honestly, you're also actively working against their ability to articulate boundaries, to "just say no" which is what so many of you want, right?