Sunday, July 5, 2020
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US should upgrade sex ed, a student opines

When photographer Aziz Ansari was written up in and the New York Times for trying to coerce a woman he had just met into having sex after they had mutually and without abnormal coercion undressed themselves in his apartment, many unthinking people linked it to the #MeToo movement. It wasn’t any part of that, I wrote.

But I’m older and have decades of experience in the workplace, which kind of predisposes me to reading that into opinion pieces. High school students are writing in their newspapers about those aspects of life that are closest to their experiences: dating, sex ed, etc.

Sarah Yamaguchi, a student at Conant High School in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, wrote an op-ed for The Conant Crier, for example, in which she says the US needs to upgrade how we teach kids about relationships in general and consent for sex in particular.

Ansari is undoubtedly at fault for putting the woman in an uncomfortable situation, but the evening’s outcome is also a result of our society’s dysfunctional attitudes towards the role of consent and communication in relationships. … There cannot be any widespread understanding of this etiquette unless consent is taught from a young age. From young girls being told that the boy bullying them on the playground is just doing it because he likes them to the “funny baby onesie” proclaiming “lock up your daughters,” children are inundated with subtly harmful messages about what a relationship is supposed to look like.

And those messages should be countered with sex ed classes that move us to the next level of evolution about the role of sex in relationships. And it should start early, she says.

Ms Yamaguchi points out that not all states have laws requiring even sex ed, but Maryland does. Illinois mandates health education that has to include medically accurate information about abstinence. But I’m personally happy to report that the laws in both states require that whenever sex ed is provided, it must include instruction in the life skill of avoiding coercion.

Instructing students in the life skill of coercion avoidance in relationships is an important first step in upgrading the sex education for all of America. As of January 1, according to the Guttmacher Institute, laws in about half the states require any sex ed curriculum to include instruction in the life skill of coercion avoidance. Some of those states, however, don’t mandate any sex education. How long will it take for that generation to grow up and spread their seeds onto the rest of us old-fashioned folks?

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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