More than 80 percent of Texas schools teach students that sexual abstinence is “the preferred choice of behavior” in all school-age relationships before marriage.
Or they teach nothing about sex at all.
You can’t fairly call it “sex education,” but that’s what passes for such in Texas, apparently.
I learned this depressing information this week reading a January article in not a Texan or other American publication but The Economist, a long-respected British periodical that offers informed, insightful analysis of international business and world affairs.
The article focused on an updated sex-education curriculum then being considered by the Austin, Texas, school district board earlier this year, thereafter approved and effective starting this month.
Cheekily titled “TexEd: Austin has changed sex education in its schools,” the article started out immodestly. Characterizing Texas as “the poster child for abstinence education,” it pointed out a disconcerting irony:
“For a conservative bunch, Texans are talking a lot about anal sex. The cause is a change to sex-education lessons in the progressive city of Austin which, some fear, could spread to the rest of the state.”
Extreme conservative Christian disquiet about “non-vaginal” sex is expressed in unveiled, euphemistic references to what conservative Christians prefer to call “sodomy” (from the infamous biblical sin pits of “Sodom and Gomorrah,” where such activity was apparently de rigueur), and “bestiality” (from how that act is supposedly always conducted, from Brokeback Mountain to gay bath houses).
But the anal-sex hook is just a way to “rile up the base,” as they say about what Donald Trump does all the time when he says things trying to shock everyone who is not in the base.
The real issue is whether school kids — who, let’s face it, are still going to have sex in all kinds of ways, with or without sex ed — should be kept ignorant about their bodies and the realities and mechanics of their sexuality.
The purpose of frank sex education is not to accommodate liberal school board members’ and educators’ sexual deviances, in Austin or anywhere else. Its purpose instead is to protect kids from the potentially life-threatening and life-ruining consequences of sex without knowledge aforethought. Such consequences include sexually transmitted diseases (so common that they have their own acronym — STD’s), unintended pregnancy (which, whether couples know it beforehand or not, will greatly complicate their next few decades and may permanently retard their ability to personally and economically thrive, and extreme vulnerability (primarily girls) to devastating sexual assault and abuse.
Added to the knowledge kids need today to navigate adolescent sexuality is the reality of gender diversity — summarized as LGBTQ (and the acronym is gaining new letters all the time) — and the many ways gender preference is naturally expressed.
So it’s getting more and more complicated out there for kids, and the only reason anyone would think giving them less information rather than more to help them survive and thrive in adolescence is … religious squeamishness.
That’s what abstinence-only education is, a reflection of Bible-induced Christian terror of the naked human body and the things people do when they get naked. Perhaps you recall the biblical story of Adam and Eve, both naked, who were beloved by God until Eve tempted Adam with the “forbidden fruit” (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). Thereafter they were commanded to clothe themselves and live the rest of their lives in abject shame — the beginnings of body shame and sex terror that today still darkly afflicts the faithful.
The question is, why would an all-knowing, all-loving divine create beings he knew in advance would be unable to control the urges he specifically designed them with, and then punish them (perhaps with immortal suffering in Hell) when they succumbed to temptation? That’s more something that a so-called Devil would do — arbitrary, unjust and cruel.
Clearly, no kids would ever think of such a thing if not taught it in sex-ed, right. Of course they would, and do. And clearly, that was not the main thing that the Austin board had in mind with its new policy, as a Politifact article explains.
The fact-checking site Snopes.com described the CBN piece by a Fox News commentator as “short on facts” (there was no mandate, for instance; parents could opt their kids out), as well as “inflammatory and homophobic.”
It’s tiresome to keep reminding conservatives of the almost immoral boneheadedness of their position on this stuff. Virtually every decent study on abstinence-only sex education shows that it does not keep kids from having sex — and, indeed, the “abstainers” often do it more often than others, which leads to more unintended pregnancies and even abortions. Studies show that school districts where robust, evidence-based sex-education exists have far fewer STD cases, teen pregnancies and sex assaults than the more “prim and proper” ones.
So what’s the point of trying to force kids into self-denial that never works anyway? It only makes the consequences of kids’ exhuberant actions potentially far, far more onerous and life-damaging. That’s not practical morality; it’s unconscionable ignorance.
The Economist article quoted Lisa Goodnow of the Austin school district, who reasonably assessed the need for more realistic sex-ed:
“Kids are two clicks away from seeing anything online. That’s not where we want our students to get information.”
But, still, the conservatives hold tight to holy myths of female chastity where sex is the thief of virtue, not a natural, morally neutral, impulse in virtually all animals, including humans.
Former Texas primary school teacher Caryl Ayala views sex before marriage as a devastating trauma, not as normal as a crush.
“A condom doesn’t protect the heart of a child,” Ayala insists.
Except, it does.
If, for example, an adolescent girl feels empowered to have sex with a condom and without shame, and is taught to recognize and avoid traps of sexual coercion and abuse, her generous heart would be far less likely to be unnecessarily bruised in the end than if she just blindly stumbled ahead knowing nothing or, worse, the wrong things.
Yes, as we all know, in romantic relationships hearts broken by dashed loves are inevitable. But greatly complicating or even ruining your life with an unintended pregnancy isn’t, if you are given useful information.
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