The Case Against Christian Sex Education
And that’s how a girl gets pregnant,” Teo said in his thick Polish accent. Alan nodded his assent as he pushed his hair out of his eyes.
“That’s cannibalistic,” was my reply.
My eleven year-old mind meant to say primitive. Surely human civilization had a better way to reproduce than what I had just heard from my sixth grade friends. We were standing in an alley behind the liquor store in Sioux Lookout, Ontario, Canada. We had taken a shortcut to Alan’s house and discovered a used condom. Alan and Teo were amazed that I didn’t know what it was or even the facts of life concerning a condom’s role in the whole scheme of things. So they gave me a quick lesson in sex ed. What they basically told me was that if a male gets an erection and kisses a female she gets pregnant. My mother later corrected my misconceptions using a very primitive drawing. As for my father, he never talked to me about sex. Except to vaguely accuse me once of having sex under the bleachers at an Air Force Academy football game when I was fifteen. Since he’s a grandfather now, he knows I figured it out.
I learned two very important lessons about sex that day. First was to not trust my peers when it came to reproduction information and second was that adults are reluctant to talk about something that is as crucial to life as eating and sleeping. Those lessons held up well as I transitioned from child to adolescent, then into a horny teenager and later married adult. They even held up when I helped develop a sex education curriculum at the middle school where I taught. Our lessons required lots of homework that was supposed to be done by parents and students together. But we ran into the same problems I experienced in that alley.
Although it was a good program, what we found was that half the teachers refused to really teach the curriculum and that many parents refused to do the homework and lied that they did. Eventually, prompted by two gay staff members who hated teaching the unit, sex ed was dumped into a general health curriculum taught by a former gym teacher. Gym teachers make the worst sex ed teachers in my experience. At Mitchell High School, the entire lesson on contraception was, “Guys, just keep it in your pants.” In terms of the success of the new middle school social health curriculum, my son, whose sex education started when he was four, came home confused about whether he was circumcised or not. After sitting in on a few lessons, I could understand his bewilderment. The female gym teacher took a fact-based value-free approach and replaced it with blurred diagrams and abstinence-based, error-filled nonsense. I would also point out that my community continues to have such a high teenage pregnancy rate that there’s a teen pregnancy center across the street from the school.
Recently, Pope Francis issued a paper on family life. I haven’t read it, nor do I intend to because if it’s anything like what came from his predecessors, it will do more harm than good. Pope John Paul II once said that “A man who looks at his wife with lust in his heart commits a sin.” As someone who has been married for over forty years, I can vouch for the fact that a man who doesn’t look at his wife with lust in his heart at least once in a while will be divorced. Most women want to be reassured on a regular basis that they are physically desirable. Why would anyone take sex advice from someone who whipped himself into a bloody pulp on a regular basis? Now, I’m not knocking kink or anyone who is into rough sex, but as the old joke says, “If you don’t play the game, you don’t get to make the rules.”
Even worse than the Catholic Church are some of the current Christian sex advisors. Mack Major, for example, recently proclaimed that women who use sex toys are introducing evil spirits into their bodies. I think they are introducing something different into their bodies, but I will grant that from Mr. Major’s perspective, a woman having an orgasm is indistinguishable from one possessed by demons. But I will also argue that an orgasm, a demonic possession, and a schizophrenic episode are three very different situations. I would further argue that only two of those situations are real and require research and further study. I don’t know what Mr. Major’s credentials are when it comes to human reproduction, but I think he should get his nose out of the Bible and do some field investigation into the female orgasm. At least then his wife would appreciate his proclamations.
We even have a presidential candidate, Ted Cruz, who once argued in federal court that people of Texas had no legal right to buy sex toys. He actually claimed that people had no right to enjoy sex outside of the process of creating marital progeny and that the state had a vested interest in maintaining this position. I happen to know some people in Texas who have a different position they would like Ted to try, although I suspect Ted is incapable of achieving it. What strikes me about all of this caterwauling is that seeking sex advice from religious people is like getting medical recommendations from Tom Cruise. You know he’s factually ignorant and promoting fiction, but people buy into it anyways.
I have become pretty knowledgeable about sex. Exhibit A is that Kim and I have been married more than forty years and raised two fine young men who didn’t become teenage dads and never treated women as objects for sexual gratification. Besides field research, I read a lot of books ranging from the Kama Sutra to Portnoy’s Complaint. I also asked a lot of questions in Biology classes and in the doctor’s office. Other teachers asked me how I became so comfortable talking about sex. The answer is that I’m not. But with knowledge, practice, and the humility to acknowledge my ignorance, as well as the desire to learn, I am able to get over my embarrassment. What is a little discomfort compared to the consequences of children having children? Or teenagers who are afraid of their own bodies?
We need serious sex education in this country. And we need religious leaders to shut the hell up about things they are woefully ill-informed about. Humanity didn’t start to successfully treat and prevent diseases until doctors quit worrying about what the Bible said and listened to Mother Nature. The same is true for Physics, Biology, Geology, and Astronomy, just to name a few of the sciences that used to be shackled by theocratic tripe. Factual knowledge was not acquired until blind faith was cast aside.
Sex, like life itself, is a messy business. It is complicated, intricate, and incredibly necessary to both human health and survival. I can think of nothing in my life more amazing than the behavior that led to the creation of my sons. Their births and maturation processes were just as messy and complex as the sexual acts that created them. The science of reproduction requires serious study and not the pontifications of ignorant religious icons. Following the advice of these morons has led us to a situation in which beer companies use boobs to advertise their product while women who use boobs to feed babies get arrested. Sexual attitudes in this country have more in common with Muslim terrorists than a healthy civilized society.
Considering the scandals and perversions found in every religious closet that’s ever seen daylight, I think the theocrats owe children a different kind of silence. One that is fact driven rather than fear generated. Give us more Dr. Ruths and fewer Dr. Grahams and we will all be better off.