The need for sex (education!) has been on my mind lately. You see this current furor about sex education to be done in schools. I don’t know what the fuss is all about – I remember being in Grade 5 or 6 and my homeroom teacher writing the words “penis” and “vagina” on the blackboard and proceeding to talk to the whole class about sex. And that was in a Catholic school run by Jesuits at that. I’ve been thinking about sex lately because of close friends having problems with their teenage daughters. I for one believe parents should talk to their kids about sex (please be more specific than just going on about the birds and the bees!). In these modern times when sexual promiscuity and having kids out of wedlock is no longer something to raise eyebrows about, I think the debate in the news about sex education in schools is way too much hype. For one, talking about sex does not mean condoning a sexual lifestyle. We can’t deny the fact that we live in quite modern times, and yes, more and more people are having sex (starting at a younger age than my 25 years!ahem.abstinence until absolutely, cannot completely control!). I remember a TV show about the sex education debate and a panelist putting it quite succinctly, “If you put a swimming pool in your backyard, shouldn’t you teach your kids how to swim?”
At a practical level, kids need to be taught about sex for their own good and protection. With sexual molestation and sexual perversion on the rise, sex education at its most basic level starts with telling kids that parts of their bodies are private. In a sense, I was teaching sex education to my Grade 2 students when I was handling Guidance classes as a Counselor several years ago (yup, me as a Sex Ed teacher!). The topic was teaching 8-year old boys about cleanliness and hygiene, but I segued the discussion to talk about how you keep your privates to yourself (the pressing incident at the time was that the kids were comparing their “soldiers” in the CR= funny, curious kids!). But on a serious note, I also tried explaining (ever so tactfully) how important it is that he is in control of his body, and that he has permission to refuse any unwanted touch. That if anyone does touch him, and it makes him feel uneasy or uncomfortable, he needs to tell that person, whether it’s someone his own age, someone he knows, or even if it’s an adult he might know, to stop. Then, he must go to a parent or someone older that he trusts, and tell about what happened. Horror stories abound about strangers in the mall, even older relatives, or cousins playing seemingly “innocent” childhood games, that I think such a talk is one a parent should have with one’s kids.
But what about teen-agers? Take out all the talk about spirituality and morality (though these are important mind you!) but at a practical, reasonable level, and what for me are my own personal views, I would stress 3 things about sex:
(1) It’s normal that we think about sex. Growing up means we have all these sex hormones (testosterone and estrogen) raging inside us, and sex is nature’s beautiful way of keeping the human species alive and reproducing. I remember a co-teacher in HS (a Guidance Counselor) asking me (since I studied psychology daw = as if I had all the answers!) what he should tell students in Guidance Class about masturbation. I forgot what I told him exactly (!). But I do believe kids should be told that what they feel is normal, and that all those feelings are not “sinful” or not be taught to see sex as dirty.
(2) Take responsibility. Since the very nature of sex is for reproduction, then getting pregnant or getting someone pregnant IS a consequence when having sex. Basically, my personal take on the matter is (moral issues not withstanding), have sex if you believe you are old enough, mature enough, financially responsible enough to have a child! If there’s one thing that irritates me to no end aside from the question of sex education, is that other debate about birth control. I do remember Theology class on marriage and being taught about the Catholic Church’s premise on the rationale for natural family planning methods (and to a certain extent I do agree). But I also think we should be realistic. I believe women should have a choice about their own bodies, and that they be taught about other methods as well, so in this case, yes I am pro-choice (stopping short of abortion, I have seen from personal experience with close friends how the guilt one goes through is just not worth it). Girls, birth control is also your responsibility (don’t leave it up to the man! and I’m telling you – a month’s set of Trust birth control pills costs only Php49!). I also strongly believe Filipino men would do well to be informed about using condoms! (tsk, tsk, there ARE condoms of the ultra-thin variety where you can still feel pleasure!). So be safe!
(3) What about feelings? Ahh, a note of caution here. Sex increases attachment with someone so choose your partner carefully. Studies show the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin are released during orgasm, hormones that deepen feelings of attachment and make couples feel much closer to one another after they had sex. In a sense, sex does confuse the issue, in that you might not be sure altogether if you really love the person. Physical intimacy should be an expression of love, not the other way around. Sex definitely does complicate men-women relationships. Yup, maybe the old folks had it right: fall in love, get married, then have sex. Yeah right.
I really don’t profess to be an expert on sex. Or even love for that matter. But the above sentiments are indeed something I feel very strongly about. At the end of it all, all I can say is, instead of having sex….. Make love!