A Maryland court has just heard arguments in a case over sex education brought against a school board by parents. The main issue with the law is its teachings on homosexuality:
Until now, opposition has focused on the constitutional rights of Montgomery families whose religious beliefs do not abide homosexuality. But with yesterday’s hearing before Circuit Court Judge William Rowan III, an attorney for the plaintiffs narrowed his focus to a few words in the disputed lessons.
Brandon Bolling, a lawyer from the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., challenged a passage in the 90-minute lessons that describes homosexuality as innate. That assertion, he said, violates a provision of a state law that says school curricula must be factual.
That sexual orientation is innate is a theory that has been rejected by courts in several states, Bolling said. “The Maryland law says you have to teach something that is factually accurate,” he said. “They are not doing that. That is illegal.”
School officials say the legal challenge intrudes on their right to do their job: writing curricula and teaching children. The new lessons survived an appeal last year to the Maryland State Board of Education, which determined it had no place to “second-guess the appropriateness” of the lessons.
“The purpose of the law in Maryland is to leave educational decisions to educators,” said Judith Bresler, attorney for the county school board. She said critics were effectively asking the court to edit the curriculum “word by word.”
To address the first point about “factual” teachings, I have to say it’s a pretty ridiculous argument. Not because sex ed shouldn’t be factual, but because schools are currently teaching teenagers all across this country that birth control pills don’t work, condoms don’t work, abortions make you sterile, and having sex before marriage will cause you to have later trouble bonding with a spouse, if you ever get one (you filthy slut) because no one will ever love you. But we shouldn’t be surprised that the teaching challenged by those who care so much about “accuracy” has to do with describing the very existence of homosexuality.
I don’t think that science has definitively determined that homosexuality is innate, though most reputable scientists seem to believe that sexual orientation has a genetic basis. Personally, as I’ve expressed before, I’m not extremely comfortable with focusing on the the “innateness” of sexuality. The purpose of teaching that homosexuality is innate, of course, is to present it as acceptable. This necessarily implies that if homosexuality was not innate, or was something that could actively be chosen, it would be perfectly okay to scorn and discriminate against those who are homosexual. And that’s a bunch of bullshit, because there is absolutely nothing wrong with sexuality, and as long as sexual activity takes place consensually, the genders of those we choose to sleep with should not be a factor on which we judge people. We shouldn’t accept non-heterosexual sexual identities because people “can’t help it,” but because there’s nothing wrong with those sexual identities in the first place.
Luckily, as I’ve previously covered, the curriculum teaches a lot more about sexual orientation than that. And I have a strong feeling that even the homophobic zealous Christian types aren’t even so upset about the idea that homosexuality is innate as they are about language that non-heterosexual sexuality should be celebrated. Hell, they don’t want teenagers (or adults, for that matter) to think that any sexuality should be celebrated. How do we know this? Other than just general paying attention to the world, there’s proof right here in this very case, because the lawsuit gets even more ridiculous:
Opponents object to language in the condom lesson about oral and anal sex. Bolling said those passages violate a state prohibition against material that “portrays erotic techniques of sexual intercourse.”
State code offers no further guidance. Critics of the curriculum said yesterday that the code covers any talk of sex acts other than those used for procreation.
Bolling said the state school board had allowed Montgomery too much discretion in defining the term. Bresler, speaking for the county board, said that Maryland affords school boards special deference in interpreting education laws. The judge concurred.
Jonathan Frankel, an attorney for the advocacy group Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays of the Metropolitan Washington D.C. Area, offered the judge further perspective. “There’s a big difference,” he said, “between the condom video and the Kama Sutra.”
There you go. Though these people are obviously homophobic bigots, I think that what this is ultimately about, and also what the objection to homosexuality is ultimately about, is sexual pleasure. Homosexuality is “wrong” because sexual activity between two people of the same biological sex can not result in babies. That means people in same-sex relationships must be having sex for sexual pleasure. Of course, we’ll ignore the fact that straight people also have sex for pleasure much more often than for procreation, and even then usually for both — unless, of course, they’re having oral or anal sex. Even straight oral and anal sex doesn’t make babies.
So we can’t teach the kids about those things. Apparently they’ll do them if we talk about them, but won’t if we act like oral and anal sex don’t exist — they certainly couldn’t find out from any other source, like friends, porn, music, tv, movies, books, magazines or blogs. And it’s not like there’s a long-standing tradition of straight kids having oral and anal sex as a “safe” alternative to PIV sex to preserve some bizarre version of virginity and prevent pregnancy, and then ending up with all kinds of unpleasant or very dangerous STDs because no one told them that these sexual activities require protection, too. And it’s not like gay boys have ever engaged in anal sex without protection because they don’t realize the potential risk. In fact, the only reason that oral and anal sex even exist is because we keep talking about it. If we weren’t planting ideas in kids’ heads, they’d certainly never think to stick something up their butts or kiss their partner’s genitals all on their own. It’s my understanding that oral and anal sex are only around because some deviant pervert came up with the practices long ago, and then the homosexual lobby and Planned Parenthood kept them alive for centuries through the distribution of pamphlets.
Pointing out the stupidity of this kind of moralizing aside, this is really just an issue of discrimination. If we teach straight sex ed, we need to acknowledge and educate about all other sexualities, as well. Anything else is just fundamentally wrong.
As Frankel expressed, teaching sexual practice is not the same as teaching sexual technique. Telling teens that they should fondle their partner’s testicles during anal sex isn’t the same as telling them to use lots of lubricant so that they don’t hurt themselves, or to use condoms to severely lower their risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. Personally, I think that teaching about sexual pleasure to at least some extent is also something that we should work towards (women shouldn’t have to wait until they’re in their mid-twenties for someone to hand them a Betty Dodson book and finally learn to orgasm). But that’s a whole different and even more difficult battle. What we’re fighting for right now is basic safety, doing our best to make sure that people stay healthy and don’t face unnecessary negative consequences for their sexual activity. It’s not an issue of religion. If there were some specific nutritional benefits to ham, would health teachers not be able to mention that for fear of upsetting Jewish parents? Even these wacknuts would disagree with that, but probably only because, you know, Jewish people aren’t Christian.
The point is that even here in America, we shouldn’t allow that type of double-standard. It’s a rights issue plain and simple, though I don’t exactly expect the courts to agree with me anytime soon.