Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sex Education

Oprah Winfrey recently caused controversy with a show she did about how mothers should talk to their daughters about sex. Apparently 3 members of the public complained to the South African Broadcasting Complaints Commission sighting that the show was sexually explicit and inappropriate. Naturally, after this news broke I just had to see what the fuss was about. After watching the episode I must admit I too was a bit flustered. This made me to wonder, is sex education still taboo due to parents being too embarrassed to talk to their children about sex & are we in denial about children needing more information about sex?
The “Bird & the Bees” talk, I suspect, may be the one conversation parents absolutely dread (apart from when your child tells you he/she is gay of course). The questions what is a vagina; what is a penis; and where do babies come from could cause any parent to briefly hyperventilate. After watching the Oprah show I am sure the level of dread increased exponentially as Dr Laura Burman also encouraged mothers to talk to their daughters about masturbation and vibrators. Oh my!

After listening to what Dr Burman said I was shocked as I tried to imagine myself in the millions of mothers’ shoes who watched the show and could just picture their facial expressions as it may have been very similar to mine – my dropped jaw only closed after I switched off the television. However, after digesting the information I came to the conclusion that she did have a point, all be it a point that at first maybe difficult to accept and comes with potential embarrassment to the parent. I think the central point she tried to make was that parents should arm their children with the appropriate information about sex to help their children be better equipped, more comfortable with their sexuality and approach and view sex in a healthy and responsible manner. Certain issues that she raised will be met with great resistance as I do not imagine many parents eagerly wanting to talk to their children about the “G” spot, masturbation, sex toys and alternatives to vaginal intercourse.

Not being a parent myself I most certainly can’t debate this issue with any authority. However, I can reflect on my own sex education I received as a child as well as that of my friends. My sex education from my parents was limited to a little book entitled “What a boy should know”. At the age of 12 this book was unceremoniously handed to me by my father. No discussions were engaged in either before or after me reading the book. The book clinically described in writing and with drawings what to expect during puberty and what sex was. Honestly, this was of little help to me as I had no intention of going anywhere near a vagina! The only useful part of the book was the description of the correct use of condoms. Notably the “gay sex” was not included (not even as an annexure) in the book and this was left to my own imagination and later trail & error.
The issue of masturbation was never adequately covered but yet the phenomena of “wet dreams” were included in my little puberty handbook. The absence of thoroughly dealing with the topic of masturbation caused me for the longest time, during puberty, to think masturbation was wrong or even a sin. To make matters worse, I also firmly believed every time I masturbated my dead ancestors could be watching. For some queer reason masturbation was an act one was made to feel guilty about, as not a single person ever told me or any of my friends this was normal and natural. Instead I remember hearing that if you masturbate too often you will grow hair on the palms of your hands.
Many of my female friends also described that their sex education was limited to either a video or book given to them by their parents. The one commonality I could identify was that we all had a similar emotive reaction the first time all our pubescent hormones came to fruition: The first time I ejaculated and the first time some of my female friends had their period we all thought we were either dying or had some embarrassing illness! The books and the videos did mention this would happen but when it does it still comes as a shock. For my female friends their first “monthly curse” (as some refer to it) did necessitate them telling a parent as tampons or pads were required, as for me I didn’t go running to either parent. I just waited, did it again and when the same thing happened I had a “aha moment” (as Oprah would say) as I faintly remembered the little book did mention something about ejaculation and now I knew what that meant.
When it came to sex what I learned was not at all as what was described in my little sex education booklet for obvious reasons. As mentioned before, there was no homosexual section and much needed “details” were left for own discovery. One would think sex is easy, comes naturally and you would get it right the first time around. That just was not true in my case! When I lost my virginity it was an absolute disaster of epic proportion as neither I nor my boyfriend (both being relatively young) knew what we were doing. We knew about condoms but didn’t know about a key component (KY) or any of the other relevant and very important “details”. So my introduction into the world of sex was a thrusting of thighs & pelvises, sweat, careful aiming, pain, embarrassment and a very anticlimactic orgasm – it was not romantic, I didn’t feel the earth move and my whole body wasn’t quivering with carnal pleasure! In retrospect it was the worst sex I ever had! Only as time passed and my sex education was supplemented by knowledge my friends had acquired through their own trails & errors did I come into my own sexually – so to speak!

Even though the Oprah show was controversial I do think the message the show conveyed was an extremely important one. Prepubescent and pubescent children should be educated about sex, they should be adequately informed and equipped to help them exercise the right choices and be confident in their own sexuality. Good sex education saves lifes as we life in a time where the threat of HIV & AIDS are real. A friend recently told me that the problem with children today is that they no longer want to play with toys rather opting to “play” with each other instead. It’s a scary thought to think children as young as 13 are already engaging in sexual acts and by the age of 16 some young people no longer are virgins.
I have a lot of respect for parents as bringing up a child is heart stopping hard work and therefore I’m grateful to only have godchildren. Thinking about your own sex education as a child and your own sexual experiences how much different would your experiences and choices have been had you had more knowledge? What a difference do you think imparting this knowledge would make on the children of today contemplating having sex? I think this is what the true intention of the Oprah Show was – asking yourself some difficult questions and sometimes finding equally difficult answers.

Till next time.

Karen Taylor - Miss Harper and Sex Education


Anonymous said...

Good one Pierre!


Pierre said...

Thanks Roberta.

I suspect people are still shy to candidly talk about sex not to mention parents talking about it with their children.

The topic of sex I think is still taboo in many places.

F said...

Hi, I've been following your blog for a couple of months now but I couldn't comment coz I did not have an account with blogger.

Thanks for the great reads. You have inspired me to start blogging. I think writing can be threpeutic at times.

I always get entertained reading your blogs and you have a way provoking thought. Keep doing what you do coz you do it well.

Pierre said...

Thanks F, glad you enjoy my blog and even more pleased that it inspired you to start your own. I look forward to reading it, let me know once it's up and running.

Lilly said...

As a mother of 2 I'd rather have my kids be informed about sex but I do not look forward to having the talk with them. Thanks for this post, it made me think. It's something I have to think about & prepare for.

Jeff said...

That's why I'm glad I am gay... oh shit what if I adopt!!!

M said...

Pierre, everything I know about sex I got from my friends. My parents didn't talk to me about anything apart from condoms. Being a gay guy I can relate to what you wrote about your losing your virginity, my first sexual encounter was also not great - I wish there was a gay sex for dummies book at that time. In the mean time I had a crash course in the use of lubricants, gay hygiene - just wished I had a book or a friend who could tell me these things back then. Being 17 I still sometimes feel stupid for not knowing about certain things about sex.

Pierre said...

Thanks for your comment M. I think a lot of gay & straight people had similar experiences. Maybe it's just part of growing up. Maybe the "gay sex for dummies" isn't such a bad idea ;-)

Lilly, I appreciate your comment as well. Good luck with the Bird & the Bees talk when the time comes!

Roshni Mitra Chintalapati said...

That was a great post! You truly hit the nail on the head! I find it odd not to talk to your kids about probably the most important thing they should learn about!! I hope to be able to justice in my case, though with two boys, they might run screaming from me if they realize that their mom intends to talk to them about sex!! ;-)

onie said...

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Pierre said...

@Roshni Mitra Chintalapati, thanks. I think the sex talk thing is scary and embarrassing for both parents and the children, but it has to be done. Good luck with your talk with your sons when the time comes.

@onie thanks for the compliment. At this point I am blogging because it's fun and a creative outlet, have not been thinking of earning money from it. I'm doing it for the love of it.

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