Sex Education: The Way Forward
When it comes to debating the implementation of sex education in schools today, the question is no longer if sex education must be made mandatory in schools, but rather how to go about implementing it within the curriculum. Today, if we don’t at least acknowledge that sex education is mandatory to be taught in schools as the baseline, then we haven’t come far at all. The basic premise of this is that essentially, forgoing sex education does more harm than good. When we say ‘sex education’ here, we don’t mean a slightly awkward talk from parents or guardians about the “birds and the bees”, no. We mean verified, substantial information not simply on the act of sex itself, but also everything else surrounding it.
We live in a highly digitalised world. On an average, we engage with at least two platforms of digital media daily, and such media is easily accessible to individuals as young as five years. When it comes to the biological processes of puberty in pre-teens, there is an increase in sexual awareness both of their self and of others. So, an absence of fundamental sexual education to these young individuals results in their turning towards the several platforms of media that are easily available to them, which become their first points of contact to what later ends up becoming their only form of “sex education”. While one might argue that platforms of media today, being aware of their immense impact, are more filtered and sensitive in the information that they put out, such can only be argued for less than forty percent of platforms. The rest, most of which are pornography, adversely influence these young individuals with their caricatured representations of sex and the ideas around it. Cue unhealthy and unsafe sexual practices, along with unstable emotional dispositions.
What may be dismissed as an inconsequential absence in curriculum clothed really, with the ideas of conservatism and traditionalism, in fact goes on to impact both individually and societally. In an individual sense, unhealthy and unsafe sexual practices increase the chances of STDs and unplanned pregnancies on the one hand. On the other, unequipped young individuals go on to experience distressing sexual encounters that render them emotionally vulnerable adults, who are mistrustful and unable to adequately navigate subsequent romantic and intimate interpersonal relationships. Societally, a caricatured understanding and learning of sex and sexuality reinforces a binary learning of gender and sex, also laying roots for a sexist, misogynistic, and transphobic mindset. Such learning does not shy away from contributing to a rise in sex-related and domestic crimes either.
What then, does it mean to make sex education mandatory in schools? It means to ensure foundational knowledge of sex and sexual practices that is verified, further ensuring safe and healthy physical and emotional practices. It means to equip young adults with the knowledge to perceive the information around them, and decide which to retain and which to rightly dismiss. It means providing them with the ability to control and take hold of their sexual and bodily agency, because despite popular belief, sex education is not simply about the act of sex and interaction with another, but more importantly, also about the physical and emotional well-being of the self, and its informed awareness.
With the sex education that is already being taught, it is devoid of the word ‘sex’ itself and evocative of heteronormative identity and practices. So, what we must talk about when we talk about implementation is veritable, immersive information of sexuality, and both personal and interpersonal sexual practices, accurate practices of personal and menstrual hygiene, and teaching that is not imposing of heteronormativity. Sex is not dirty or immoral, and neither is talking about it. In the same way that sexual liberation is not indicative of progress, sexual reservedness does not equal morality either. A destigmatize curriculum of sexual education taught in schools will not only help propagate healthy and positive ideas of sexual practices, but will also help break the generational cycle of taboo surrounding them. Sex education does not need to provoke or strictly instruct; it simply needs to appropriately inform.