So this has pissed me the fuck off. Dr. Saunders, the senior public health doctor in Scotland, has called for a reform to sex education in schools, starting gradually from a much younger age than the current system does. No, that’s not the bad part. The bad part is that the article reporting on it is called “Sex Lessons Must Start at Age Five”. Yup, that’s right: “sex lessons.” In addition, it notes “Saunders also called for secondary schools to hand out condoms and other forms of contraception to children from the age of 13.” The (probably deliberate) implication here, of course, is that Saunders’ plan is fanatical and includes using the Kama Sutra at story time, putting on some porn while the kindergarteners take their the snack break and having junior high teachers staple condoms to each graded test sheet upon their return to the students (seriously, why do people not get that “handing out” is different from “having on hand?”).
In reality, Dr. Saunders’ remarks are extremely pragmatic, well-founded, and from my perspective, just common sense. So I think that it’s necessary to quote at length exactly what Dr. Saunders means by “sex education.” And, as is always the case, it doesn’t mean teaching five-year-olds how to fuck.
Saunders, a consultant in public health medicine at NHS Fife, said: “It needs to start at quite an early age, because if you leave it until they are 12 it is too late because some are already experimenting. It probably needs to be started off when children start school. You need to start laying the groundwork to help them and empower them to make decisions and turn things down.
“At five it needs to be a language that they understand and taught in the same way as any other subject. It would be basic mechanics at that age in the same way as you teach a child of that age a tiny amount about geography, a fairly superficial introduction.
“It should start off with relatively simple concepts in the same way as English and science start off with the basics. It could start off with how babies are made and progress from there.”
He added: “You need to start somewhere and it makes an awful lot of sense to start long before it’s needed, because if you leave it too long you are wasting your time.
“Basically sex education needs to be a whole lot better. It’s not just anatomical drawings but what the risks are from infections and what the pros and cons are of having sex or waiting.
“It’s not a simple task to get young people empowered enough to use condoms, but it’s the key. You want to ensure people are not having sex when they don’t want to have it, and that when they do want to have it they are not putting themselves at risk.”
Saunders added that all schools should also provide contraception to pupils. Currently contraception is on offer at a small number of schools.
He said: “Particularly in rural areas, schools may well be the only way that pupils can access contraception.
“It may well be that as time goes on it would make sense to have emergency contraception in schools.”
Read it and weep. The promiscuous, liberal, orgy-promoting Saunders wants to teach children words like “penis” and “vagina.” He also wants to teach kids how to use condoms before they might need them. How can we possibly stop this madman?
Those criticizing Saunders are the usual suspects: some parents’ groups and the Catholic church. Basically, prudish authoritarians who think that they can control people’s actions by controlling the flow of information and . . . well, prudish authoritarians who think that they can control people’s actions by controlling the flow of information.
The point is that the utter ridiculousness of the outcry is almost hilarious — except that it’s nothing new, we haven’t gotten anywhere, and while the adults sit back and bicker about whether or not kids have the right to know about their own bodies, those kids are the ones who are suffering. It’s not funny because it’s a massive fucking problem. It’s not funny because people are still too stupid and brainwashed to realize that “sex education for five-year-olds” does not mean the same as “sex education for 13-year-olds,” and that sex is about a hell of a lot more than putting penises into vaginas. No matter how hard you smack most people up the side of the head, they still don’t understand that not all sex is heterosexual sex, not all heterosexual sex is penetrative sex, and that sex education should be about how our bodies work, bodily pride, consent, exploration, desire and determining personal values in addition to just STDs and pregnancy.
I find the saddest part of the whole thing, though, to be this one statement, particularly because it’s a sentiment repeated multiple times in the article comments:
However, a spokesman for the Catholic Church said five-year-olds were too young to understand sex.
He said: “When children reach puberty they are able to assimilate information about their own sexuality but they are just not ready at five. It’s way over their heads and would be as pointless as giving a five-year-old a talk on alcohol. At the age of 15 it’s a different matter.”
Someone who dubiously claims in the comments to be a doctor says:
Yes, I agree that something has to be done, but sex education at the age of five? A five-year-old has no sexuality and could make nothing of it. The hormones are not present, because the relevant glands do not start to secrete them until the age of puberty. Granted, the onset of puberty has been coming down the age scale for years, but this is going a bit too far.
The suggestion is that children are not sexual creatures. And I understand why we want to believe this — our society is uncomfortable with sex, particularly masturbation, there is the very real problem of pedophilia and increasing presentation of children as sexual objects to adults, and the good, genuine desire by most to never, ever sexually damage a child.
But children are sexual. Sexuality and sexual desire are two different things; children are more deficient than adults in the first category and are missing the latter. But children masturbate. Babies masturbate. Not because they’re thinking about sex with another person but because it feels good. Touching yourself does feel good. It’s only as adults that we learn to be ashamed of that instead of simply learning about appropriate public and private behavior. That people are so unable to seperate “sexual being” with “being who it is okay for me to fuck” is the problem, here. If we could get that far, we’d be a hell of a lot closer to the ability to provide sex education to children honestly and openly.
For more about all of this, I highly recommend these Planned Parenthood articles about childhood sexual development and how to provide age-appropriate sex education. And while we’re on the subject, I consider the Declaration of Sexual Rights to be pretty damn important and relevant, too. I can tell you from experience that despite best efforts, you’re not likely to find these pamphlets in schools or PTA meetings.