It was always a horrific time: each spring the girls and the guys would be divided up, put in separate classrooms, and "The Talk" would begin.
The horror was made more horrific when some thoughtful teacher decided it was more healthy for us, upon reaching high school, to sit through more sex ed talks co-ed. Even recalling the memories, I want to gouge my eyes out with an ice awl. The same brilliant teacher was probably the same one who invited a gynocologist to my Grade 10 class — an OB/GYN armed with slides… slides of genital warts… slides of genital warts that oddly enough were the first to be shown at the beginning of our Grade 10 Sex Ed Horror Picture Show.
It's for this reason I haven't made sex ed a part of Coming Home's curriculum.
Let me rephrase: I haven't made sex ed a part of Coming Home's curriculum officially.
If I was lambasted with sex ed growing up, you can bet condoms-to-KY jelly that youth today are even more so. That doesn't mean all sex ed is getting through to all kids, nor is all sex ed created equal. But I know that forcing a group of youth (girls this round) to sit through yet another slide show, I'll lose out. Most of them probably could recite the presentation by memory already. Practice putting on a condom? Pfffft… no sweat. Where's the lesson here, Ms.Erin?
Having said that, I am working with 12-17 year olds — 12-17 year old girls.
You thought boys talked about sex a lot? Check out these hormones. You see I'm not inserting sex into the curriculum because I don't need to. Create a trusting environment, sex is going to come up. Bound to. And awesome if it does because to me it's a sign that youth feel safe enough to demand the truth.
I came across this article this morning:
I'm not sure if I agree with ALL the points, but it presents an excellent premise: girls need the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Especially if these girls have already been taken advantage of, exploited, maybe become 'friends with benefits' & struggle with guilt, or are refusing to cease sexually dangerous behaviour, we need to recognize lies when we see them knowing they're fueling a shame-based culture.
#5: If someone buys you something, you owe him or her sex.
Wrong. Wrong! WRONG! WRONG!!!!!!!!!!
Sex isn't a transaction. But whenever we insist upon something that sex is NOT, we'd better have a valid follow up about what sex IS. Remember: some of these girls have already been through the wringer and may or may not have quality info. I know using sex for cash or goods is wrong. You might know that sex for cash or goods is wrong. But a 15 year old girl looking for love in all the wrong places, even if she senses in her head it MIGHT be wrong, is probably going to listen to her real need for love and perhaps engage in sexual behaviour for cash or goods.
Beating her upside the head with a stick ("Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!") will make life worse. Maybe the person coercing sex from her in exchange for food, shelter, drugs or alcohol might need that stick-over-the-head, but not the girl. She's a victim of coercion — a beautiful child of God who is made to be a victim of coercion. Is it wrong of her to seek real love? Not at all. Ever. God created us to seek love — in parents, in siblings, in extended family, in friends, in teachers and mentors and coaches, in community, in ourselves, in lovers, in God. When that love is absent or is abused or perverted, the real need for love doesn't suddenly magically vanish. We need to love and be loved. It's part of the truth of who we are.
#7: Women don't think about sex very much.
Are you serious!?!?!? This lie is still roaming around? Sigh… I remember being in youth group and being told this. Now… knowing full well my mother and father are probably reading this… I tried believing that guys thought more about sex than girls. I read my Bible, I prayed, I abstained, and even wore a purity ring. But did that mean I thought about "IT" less than guys?
Sorry guys… shove over. Girls' thoughts are racing just as hard and fast about sex as guys'. One girl asked me about why she got all hot and wet "down there" when a boy she liked flirted with her and he flashed his smile at her. Girls engage in casual sex, girls look at porn, girls fantasize, girls have working libidos that vary from low to high, just like guys.
The scary thing about this lie is it keeps girls from asking frank questions about what's actually happening to their bodies when a good-looking teacher walks into the room, or why their hearts race when fingers brush against each other by accident in the crowded hallways. It keeps girls in shame about actually being sexual beings (until marriage that is, where we're suddenly supposed to have a magical time of it).
Again, referring back to youth who may already have had bad or dangerous sexual experiences, this lie can do extra damage because hurting youth are often unable to untangle healthy growing thoughts around sexuality from trauma. Keeping secrets takes a lot of work, so keeping a sexual secret would be crazy hard! If we tell girls we're not supposed to have a sex drive, this reinforces the secret that girls are "dirty", "slutty", "bad", "used goods".
I'm sure you all could point anything on that list, agree or disagree or fall somewhere in between, and understand the need for girls to feel a little safer and freer to talk about sex. I'm going to add one more lie:
#18: Abstinence talk is bad.
Abstinence has long been linked with The Purity Movement, and has been given a pretty bad rap in recent years. The article alluded to sexual choices in #17, but I wanted to be more specific here.
Abstinence isn't always about morality. The Purity Movement did a lot of damage, true. But this doesn't mean that abstinence in and of itself is a teaching of the devil's spawn.
Sometimes it is about morality, and that's not always a bad thing! When that morality heaps tons of guilt on to girls because sexual 'sin' is the worst of the worst, of course there's going to be damage. Since when was 'purity' all about sex anyway? Sure we want our kids to make wise sexual choices, but the shame/blame game has shown how damaging it is to youth, wherever they come from.
Also choosing to abstain from sex because you want to focus on school… don't feel your partner's right for you… have to brush your teeth… THAT'S FINE! Saying "NO." is healthy. People who don't respect your "NO." have crossed lines and need to back off. Girls need healthy sex ed, and part of that healthy sex ed is still abstinence. Some girls who have been taken advantage of have never been told that they have the right to say:
My question to you is: when sharing with girls who have already had some damaging sexual experiences, how would you handle questions? What's helped you in the past? What's seemed to be uplifting, life-giving to the youth you've talked with?