Sexuality, Schooling, and Adolescent Females: The Missing Discourse of Desire

Knowing as I did that this article was published in 1988, I found reading it distressing, because not much that Fine finds problematic about the state of sex education in American public schools has changed.  In broad strokes: our schools still don’t provide adequate information that empowers young people to enjoy their sex lives without the consequences of pregnancy and STIs; young women are still taught to be fearful of their sexuality and portrayed as victims of male sexuality with little agency; desire and pleasure are mysteriously absent from the sex-ed curriculum; and classrooms are still not safe places for gay and lesbian young people.

I understand the ick factor in talking to teenagers about orgasms.  Most sane people think 14-year-olds are not ready for sex.  Most sane people also think teenagers make terrible drivers.  But we mitigate the risks of putting kids behind the wheel by enrolling them in driver’s ed courses and teaching them what they need to know to stay safe–not by forbidding them to even try driving (while the keys dangle temptingly in the ignition).  Our policymakers and politicians seem to have allowed the ick factor to take over our sex ed curricula, over the last 15 years.

I got these stats from the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank that promotes “sexual and reproductive health worldwide through research, policy analysis and public education”:

• In 2006–2008, most teens aged 15–19 had received formal instruction about STIs (93%), HIV (89%) or abstinence (84%). However, about one-third of teens had not received any formal instruction about contraception; fewer males received this instruction than females (62% vs. 70%).

• Many sexually experienced teens (46% of males and 33% of females) do not receive formal instruction about contraception before they first have sex.

• About one in four adolescents aged 15-19 (23% of females and 28% of males) received abstinence education without receiving any instruction about birth control in 2006–2008, compared with 8–9% in 1995.

• Among teens aged 18–19, 41% report that they know little or nothing about condoms and 75% say they know little or nothing about the contraceptive pill.

• In 2006, 87% of U.S. public and private high schools taught abstinence as the most effective method to avoid pregnancy, HIV and other STDs in a required health education course.

• Sixty-five percent of high schools taught about condom efficacy and 39% taught students how to correctly use a condom in a required health education course.

• Seventy-six percent of high schools taught about the risks associated with teen pregnancy as part of required instruction, and 81% taught about the risks associated with having multiple sexual partners.

In her 25-year old article, Michelle Fine cited studies that prove that abstinence-centered sex ed only makes teenagers less likely to use protection when they inevitably have sex.  Apparently that wasn’t enough science, because 12 years later, the Bush administration directed that federal funding for sex ed should go to abstinence education.  Now, the CDC is releasing new data that prove the same point, after we allowed a whole generation of kids to be lied to about their own bodies.  How frustrating for people who actually care about the sexual health of teenagers!

While Fine occasionally comes across as an aloof anthropologist studying an exotic breed of teenager, and her selection of quotes from students are laughably dated in their attempts at being hip and/or revelatory, I really appreciate her point that sex ed for girls needs to go beyond mechanics and dire warnings about diseases and babies, to teach them that they are actors in their own sexual lives, not passive vessels for male desire.  I also admire that she is willing to brave the ick factor by making the obvious point that sex is pleasurable, and that we should incorporate desire and pleasure into discussions of sexuality.  As a teenager in the 90’s, I was privileged to undergo years of very comprehensive and often mortifying sex ed, and although I could list every symptom of gonorrhea and the pros and cons of every birth control device for sale at CVS, no one ever discussed why girls might want to have sex, except to warn us that boys would try to pressure us.

I’m just fine these days but girls with less access to information than I had, who are taught that sex is dangerous, that there’s no safe or socially acceptable way for them to take ownership of their bodies and their desires, will feel shame.  And shame leads to disempowerment and bad decisions and yet another generation of women–and men–who think that standing up after sex won’t make you pregnant, or that no doesn’t really mean no.  The Obama administration has redirected federal sex ed funding away from abstinence education; perhaps there is hope.

Because this article is tangential to my final project topic of teaching literature and sexuality at the community college level, I wanted to address it for the blog.  I apologize for getting ranty!  I’d love your opinions about Fine’s assertion below:

“…it is important to understand that by providing education, counseling, contraception, and abortion referrals, as well as meaningful educational and vocational opportunities, schools could play an essential role in the construction of the female subject–social and sexual.  …Public schools constitute a sphere in which young women could be offered access to a language and experience of empowerment.”

Are public schools an appropriate venue for the kind of sex-ed Fine is referring to?  Is this all stuff that kids can google and be done with it?

In an urban setting, do you think is it more difficult to communicate information about sexuality across cultures and religions that may discourage sexual expression?

Do you think that “access to a language and experience of empowerment” can be provided not only through sex ed but through teaching literature?  Or should discussions of sexuality be reserved for health teachers?

If you think that reading literature on sexuality could help empower your students, which works would you teach?

Do you feel comfortable addressing issues of sexuality in your classrooms?  For example, what do you do about the prostitute scene in The Catcher in the Rye?  (And what about the middle school teachers?)

Thank you so much for reading!  I look forward to our discussion.

9 thoughts on “Sexuality, Schooling, and Adolescent Females: The Missing Discourse of Desire

  1. Pamela, thanks for the great reaction!

    Just as you state at the beginning of your post, there are some issues to be had with the fact that Fine’s article is from almost thirty years ago. My initial thought was that the nearly three-decades’ worth of happenings since its publications would render the article inaccurate and irrelevant, less of a guide and more of an artifact.

    Unfortunately, this is not the case.

    Visiting the Guttmacher website (thanks for the link!), I stumbled across plenty of unsettling statistics about sex education (or the lack thereof) in the United States. Here’s one statistic I just can’t stop rolling over in my head:

    “Through another provision in the health care reform legislation, Congress also renewed the Title V abstinence-only program for five years. This funding stream makes available $50 million annually for grants to the states to promote sexual abstinence outside of marriage.” (http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/FB-Teen-Sex-Ed.html)

    Although this is no grand revelation, it’s never a welcoming thought to think that money is being sent to those who’re willing to perpetuate an agenda, even if it’s rooted in misinformation. Not only is there any credible evidence that promoting abstinence is an effective means of combating pregnancy/STIs, there’s plenty of evidence that suggests that abstinence programs are detrimental. Moreover, the issue of economic dis/advantages seems to be at the root of Fine’s argument; although the circumstances may change, it always stands to reason that those with access are going to be in a more advantaged position. Fine provides a microcosm of this model when discussing the effect of consent-provisions:

    “Finally, the consent provisions create a class-based health care system. Adolescents able to afford travel to a nearby state, or able to pay a private physician for a confidential abortion, have access to an abortion. Those unable to afford the travel, or those who are unable to contact a private physician, are likely to become teenage mothers…” (254).

    So while my knee-jerk reaction was to brush off Fine’s article as a relic, it seems that its main arguments may be more relevant than ever.

    Sitting with the reading for awhile, I think what I’m taking away is that we (teachers, parents, society!) will go to great lengths to avoid the uncomfortable discussions. While this is a tremendous over-simplification, I think there’s something to be said for the fact that Fine lists four different approaches to sex education, with the only one not being regularly implemented is that which acknowledges and engages with the notion of teenage desire. The other three are easy to teach, because there is no honest dialogue, merely the unilateral delivery of “right and wrong” from teacher to student:

    – “the authorized suppression of a discourse of female sexual desire”
    – “the promotion of a discourse of female sexual victimization”
    – “explicit privileging of married heterosexuality over other practices of sexuality.” (241)

    (Some of) THE QUESTIONS AT HAND:
    “Are public schools an appropriate venue for the kind of sex-ed Fine is referring to? Is this all stuff that kids can google and be done with it?”

    Although part of me wants to shirk from this responsibility, to make the claim that sex-ed should be a parent’s obligation, I think it should absolutely be taught in public schools. At the end of the day, public schools should be the means by which a democracy is provided well-informed citizens, and while this certainly means teaching civics, math, science, and literature, it also means teaching about sex. It would be great if all parents had the time and ability to teach their children, but this isn’t the reality; as such, the public schools should be the great equalizer which provide everyone the information they’ll need.

    – “Do you feel comfortable addressing issues of sexuality in your classrooms? For example, what do you do about the prostitute scene in The Catcher in the Rye? (And what about the middle school teachers?)”

    Although I’m not so sure I would be comfortable teaching an entire unit on sex-ed, I am definitely comfortable discussing the sex that arises in works of literature. For instance, when reading The Catcher in the Rye with my classes, I encourage the students to look at Holden’s sexuality (or aversion to it) as another aspect of his reticence to forfeit his childhood, and his half-hearted attempts into the world of sexuality as his attempts to self-fashion an identity for which he isn’t ready. Although there’s (almost always) some initial reluctance on the students’ parts, they end up embracing Holden as a proxy.

    …And it looks like I’ve gone on too long. I’ll stop for now, but look forward to more comments!

    • First off, I appreciate the opportunity to think about some of the issues that surround our classrooms.

      As a middle school teacher, while my students are hyper focused on sex, I basically try to ignore it and divert their attentions elsewhere. They loved the kissing in “Anne Frank” and loved talking about Anne and Peter’s relationship, but we never moved beyond those innocent displays of affection, and frankly, I don’t think they wanted to. It was age-appropiate and school-appropiate.

      Sex Education at my school is done in a haphazard way. Sometimes an outside group comes in and runs workshops for some groups. There isn’t really a rhyme or reasons as to who gets what information when and I suppose Student A could end up being part of 3 separate sexuality workshops while, due to scheduling, Student B went to 0.

      As a former boarding school teacher, I was very comfortable in the dorm talking about sexuality with my students and because they were so interested in it, we often trained the older girls to run groups with the younger girls. However, context is everything – it felt very natural to talk about sex while eating popcorn and watching a movie, whereas in the public school climate of “go go go, get to MCAS,” I tend to squash off topic questions, rather than treat them as a learning experience. That being said, if my public school students don’t have a dorm parent, then where is the space for them to learn?

      Pamela – I agree that Fine had an anthropologist style – the quotes from the students seemed like she was really trying to show authenticity – but they lost some authenticity from trying so hard!

      I also thought Fine’s anecdote about teachers in Philadelphia being allowed to “Define” abortion but not comment on it was interesting. Do your schools have any stated, or unstated, policies on talking about sex?

  2. Thanks so much, Pamela, for the provocative post! I’m glad to see you contextualize this article within the longer history of sex ed and highlight how little has changed (plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!).

    It may help to know that one of the reasons I selected this and the disability studies articles was because I felt that while many of these issues are of paramount important in our classrooms (and perhaps especially in urban schools), they often go undiscussed in literature classrooms, even if the literature directly addresses it. It amazes me, for example, that Chaucer’s “Wife of Bath’s Tale” will be taught and discussed without any reference to her prologue in which she foregrounds quite clearly the importance of her sexual desire. And the tale itself is often taught as a struggle for control between man or woman in marriage, without any real engagement with the fact that the knight essentially goes unpunished for raping the maiden at the beginning of the tale. Even if we don’t delve into the “ick” factor that Pamela notes, we can certainly deconstruct the automatic association of male sexuality with power.

    I don’t think, Allen, that English teachers need to be in the business of teaching sexual education in the practical sense (e.g. using contraception, etc.), but I do think we have a responsibility to ask students to consider the assumptions behind the discourse of sex in school and in life. In a class last semester, I had students read Zora Neale Hurston’s _Their Eyes Were Watching God_ and we focused in on the famous pear tree, bee-pollination scene. Even thought that episode is about many things, I was quite shocked to see graduate students skirting the issue of sexual desire. It’s as if they have been trained to do so. And maybe they have been. I think this needs to change.

  3. Pamela, you presented a thorough analysis of the Fine article and added useful information about the current status of sex education in America. I am honestly amazed by the statistics that you presented. I assumed that things would have changed since the publication of the article, but it looks like that is not true.

    I think it is great that you ask, “Is this all stuff kids can Google and be done with it?” Prior to reading your response, I thought about how the internet has definitely changed the way adolescents learn about and explore sexuality. While it is great for learning some things about sex that students may be uncomfortable asking an adult about, I do not believe that sexual empowerment can be achieved from just looking stuff up on Google. By discussing the topic of sex in a supportive, adult led conversation amongst peers, students have the opportunity to become comfortable with discussing sex. When this conversation is combined with experience and education, students can really feel empowered by their sexual knowledge.

    I think it is also important that English teachers do not shy away from discussing sexuality in literature. It is important that adults recognize that students can be mature enough to discuss sex in any classroom when appropriate or called for. If you show students that it is OK to talk about sexual matters in a public setting, they are more likely to be comfortable and knowledgeable about the subject. However, I do not believe that it is an English teacher’s responsibility to teach sex as well as literature. An English teacher should draw the line somewhere. He or she would not want to ask students about their sexual activity when discussing a novel. However, you would want to have a mature discussion about the sexuality in a focus piece. It is the difference between asking if everyone knows how to use a condom, versus asking if students can see the nods to human intercourse and orgasm in relation to the pear tree in “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” For me it seems like a big difference, but it may not for some.

    I do feel comfortable discussing sexual implications in literature with my students in the 8th Grade. We do not read anything that asks me to have what I would consider “tough” or “incredibly sexual” discussions with students. For example, the word “apricocks” came up TODAY when we were reading “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in class. All the kids laughed and I asked them what was so funny. They knew I was playing dumb because things like this come up often and I’m generally very candid and offer the best explanation I can. In reply to my dumbness one of my students gave an explanation that it looked like the word “apricot” mixed with “cock”, and it is likely that Shakespeare was trying to be a little dirty/sexual. I said that this might be true. So, like any good English teacher I consulted Google and we found out it is actually an old term for apricots! Problem solved. When it comes to sexuality I have no problem discussing it. Honestly, I see them drawing enough penis pictures and whatnot that I’m not phased by it.

    Brian

  4. Like other commenters, I am shocked and saddened that not much has changed since Fine’s article was published. I have taught English language arts in two public urban middle schools, and neither has had a sex ed curriculum in place. At both schools I have discussed the importance of such a curriculum with administrators, but at the first school I was shirked due to a history of parent protest, and in the second it was an issue of staffing and/or finding a vetted outside agency to come educate our youth for free.

    At the same time, Allen’s comment that, “we (teachers, parents, society!) will go to great lengths to avoid the uncomfortable discussions” is ringing in my ears. Two works that I teach have definite sexual themes, a play version of The Diary of Anne Frank by Goodrich and Hackett and The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. In the former, like Sue mentions, the students become giddy as the relationship between Anne and Peter evolves and culminates in a kiss. However, when Act II of the play begins with Anne discussing how much she enjoys the “sweet secret” of the changes taking place inside of her and insinuating that she looks forward to each time her period comes, not a student makes a peep about it, and admittedly, neither do I. When I show the BBC movie portrayal of the story post-reading, we skip the scene in which Anne stares at herself in the bathroom mirror and ruminates on the new feelings of pleasure she experiences and the shame she feels surrounding it. If I were teaching ELA in England, would I feel the same need to skip this scene?

    As for The House on Mango Street, the sexual themes and theme of female repression is much more prevalent throughout the entire text. I have taught the book in two ways: one in which we read through the vignettes in the order Cisneros presents them, and another in which I pick and choose vignettes to read thematically. In the first method, there is no getting around discussing female/male power relations, violence, sexual abuse and harassment, and rape. Teaching the vignette “Red Clowns” is always a difficult task. In fact, many students do not even realize that a rape occurs in this vignette, but unlike with Anne getting her period, this is not a topic that I let go undiscussed. It’s especially unsettling to me not knowing the histories of every student in my class but acutely aware that many have traumatic pasts. However, the discussions have always gone well, and the students have historically shown a level of maturity much greater than they tend to show when discussing more ordinary events in the literature we read. That said, when I teach Mango Street in the second method, I have invariably left out “Red Clowns,” citing various excuses to avoid this difficult conversation. I am now thinking, though, that perhaps the lack of sex education curriculum makes it imperative that I take on these discussions with my students.

    Pamela asks if public schools are an appropriate venue for the kind of sex ed Fine is referring to and whether or not it is more difficult to communicate information about sexuality across cultures and religions that may discourage sexual expression. As evidenced in the article (and my history at two schools with two different excuses for lack of such a curriculum), I personally believe that public school is an absolutely appropriate venue for such discussion, but the rules surrounding these discussions vary from place to place, even within the same region, making the reality of conducting such discussions much more difficult. It is especially concerning when it is the parents in the community who do not want the conversations occurring and the teacher who has to stifle what he or she thinks is correct in order to avoid offending the community and ultimately keeping a job. Like Ware notes, “the absence of safe spaces to explore sexuality affects all adolescents,” but I do not believe Google is the “safe space” to explore (246). Clearly this is a complex issue that needs to continue to be addressed in urban and suburban settings alike.

    Leah

  5. Thanks, Pam, for an interesting set of questions to consider! I’d like to respond in a slightly different way to a few of them. Much of the focus of the article seems to be on what actually happens in the classroom, policies and curriculum constructed in places outside of the classroom, and how the intersections of these two spheres affect the students who are meant to benefit from both. Within this, however, it seems that discussion or conversation about sexuality is central—it is not simply memorizing facts about STD’s or about anatomy, but the moments when conversation (such as those on page 247) explores the realities of the lives that the students lead and the knowledge (well-informed or otherwise) and sometimes resultant beliefs that students come to class with.

    To consider another train of thought (I’ll connect them in a second), I was interested by one of the three prevailing discourses of female sexuality described by Fine, “sexuality as individual morality.” In this section, Fine states that “the language of self-control and self-respect reminds students that sexual immorality breeds not only personal problems but also community tax burdens” (242). Upon reading this section, I found myself wondering whether the students in a classroom or community in which this is the prevailing discourse would be able to define morality and immorality in the first place—whether such a conversation would occur. Later, when discussing policies regarding addressing abortion in Philadelphia schools, the concept of definition through a classes’ exploration, consideration, and conversation again arises when Fine asks, “How can definition occur without discussion, exchange, conversation, or critique unless a subtext of silencing prevails?” (248). In this sense, how can we expect students to make informed decisions about their lives if they have had a venue in which to consider the meaning of things, to come to their own definitions of what “sexuality,” “desire,” “victimization,” and “power” are.

    In light of the above two trails of thought, that regarding conversation and questions about definitions (such as for the terms “morality” and “sexuality”), I would venture to suggest that what might actually be at the heart of the issues presented in the article may not be the debate about sexuality, but rather the degree to which honest and real-life debate takes place in the junior or senior high school classroom in the first place. (Here, I guess, we find ourselves back in what we might have been calling “the personal” in class last week.) In this sense, although Fine is chiefly concerned with “silencing a discourse of desire” because doing so “buttresses the icon of woman-as-victim” (252), a better place to start the conversation might be regarding in what ways all students are empowered (or not) via the experiences they have at school. How student-centered is the instruction? How relevant is the curriculum? What kinds of thinking are emphasized by the instruction and the curriculum? Who is doing the talking? As a result, public schools might actually be public in the way that they are meant to be—as a place that offers “access to a language and experience of empowerment” for everyone who attends (259). This is not to say that I don’t see the problems that Fine does—I do believe they are present—but rather that they could be better approached through a slightly different approach to the role of the student in the classroom altogether.

    And perhaps that, too, gives some insight into how we might interpret the situations Holden Caulfield encounters. What leads him to requesting Sunny be sent to his room? What definition of sexuality does he seem to have? Do his attitudes about sex seem to coincide with his attitudes about other things? In what ways in the scene similar to other moments in the novel? When else does he act in similar ways? What might these patterns say about sexuality?

    In this sense, the literature class can be the perfect place not necessarily for sex education, but perhaps for the kinds of thinking, writing, and conversation that would give meaning to whatever sex education they may receive. There’s always some doubt about the transfer that actually occurs across subjects in the public school student’s pinball of curriculum, but I would venture to say that any sex ed program would benefit from addressing these themes through consideration of literature, time for students to spend thinking about what things mean, sharing that thinking, and feeling like what they think things mean matters. That’s empowerment. Even _The Catcher in the Rye_ seems to show this: Holden has plenty to say, the problem is he only feels comfortable enough to say it to us. In fact, even then, he doubts whether we honestly even want to listen to his story: his first seven words are “If you really want to hear about it…”

  6. This notion of sex education is apparently complex and the ability to have a fruitful discussion around the topic with students involves many variables (one of which being religion, which surprisingly hasn’t really been mentioned). Regardless, I strongly believe that all topics related to sexuality (orientation, prevention, safety, desire, etc.) should be discussed in public schools. As Allen mentioned, public educational institutions have the responsibility of creating “well-informed citizens,” and therefore, are obligated to cover topics of sexuality. (I become uneasy with the idea of Google becoming the sole educator on any topic–particularly when discussing students who are unable to navigate the internet critically).

    This notion of the “ick factor” stood out to me, as I have noticed many of my peers become uncomfortable when conversations of sex arise with their students (some avoid it altogether). Although some are willing to have small discussion on this topic, these uncomfortable feelings seem to only further the belief that sexuality is a taboo topic, perpetuating its association with shame. Thus, I believe these uncomfortable feels, if they are evident, should be brought out and discussed.

    Above all, I think I need to continuously remind myself of Sue’s comment that “context is everything.” While I believe every aspect of sexuality should be discussed in a school setting, all topics shouldn’t necessarily be hosted in an ELA classroom. It leads me to thing about the Todd’s comment regarding the “transfer that actually occurs across subjects,” and the potential benefits of having some curriculum alignment throughout each grade and within each discipline within a school to provide an opportunity to expose students to the multiple layers of this topic, and tailor it to students’ developments/maturity level.

    • Thank you Pamela for providing such a great starting point for this discussion and for raising so many interesting questions.

      Although my approach to discussion around sexuality in my classroom has never deliberately espoused this idea of a “discourse of desire,” I do find that issues of sexuality surface often, and that some students—often depending on their level of extroversion—are completely comfortable with it. As their teacher, I definitely encourage open dialogue with discussions around sexuality as they pertain to the literature we are reading. How far beyond our analysis of a text that the conversation should extend, and how much it should seek to intentionally incorporate an exploration of sexual desire and an empowering education in sexuality, however, is clearly central to this discussion.

      In my experience with inner city students, religious beliefs serve as a significant barrier to the kind of sexual education that Fine is promoting. Many of my students, especially those with strong religious ties, have expressed a great deal of discomfort or outright hostility towards any decisions, behaviors or ways of life that threaten their core belief system. While I frequently encourage students to challenge their own values and belief system, and students do feel comfortable sharing differing viewpoints, there are certain opinions and principles—such as those that are so clearly connected to religion—that exist beyond the realm of my influence; forcing students to participate in sexual education that is so intimately linked to these areas of discomfort and disagreement would pose a significant challenge.

      On another note, I was concerned about certain points made around the “promotion of a discourse of female sexual victimization.” Although I am in complete agreement that it is important to discourage these “sex-negative” attitudes that have far reaching consequences, particularly that of victimizing and disempowering women, I do believe Fine overlooked the importance of continuing to formally educate students (both women and men) about the power struggles that are inherent in a male-dominated society that often play out in sexual relationships. This is especially true during the teenage years when young men and women are working to regulate and understand unfamiliar emotions, and are still in the process of learning how to make mature decisions that could affect them for the rest of their lives. While focusing on the negative—that we are a male-dominated society, that unprotected sexual activity can result in consequences such as unwanted pregnancies and disease—should not be the only focus of sex education, we cannot discount its importance. I feel more comfortable with my students navigating this unfamiliar sexual territory ready to acknowledge and confront the gender inequities that will impact their relationships, as well as the potential physical and emotional consequences of sex.

  7. This was an interesting article to read, and Pamela’s reactions and statistics are eye-opening. It’s scary to see how little things have changed!
    I admit that I still have fairly little experience with public schools. I went to private schools for K-12 and in middle school and high school we didn’t even have a health class, let alone a sex ed class. That said, I did experience the silence that indicated taboo, as well as the sex-negative current in my high school, and I do not think that silence about these matters is an effective way of dealing with them.
    When schools, teachers, and parents are silent or sex-negative, students will not feel as though they have safe spaces in which to ask the questions they have about sex. It puts a stigma on sex; it becomes something forbidden, possibly with an allure of being rebellious, like drugs or alcohol. It is something that might brand some kids as cool and others as sluts. Most importantly, Fine writes that a lot of programs simply tell the students to “say no,” and do not tell them how to be responsible and safe if they do say yes.
    Regarding the question of whether or not public schools are an appropriate place for sex ed to be taught, I think this quote from Nilda is an effective answer. “‘Not our parents! We tell them one little thing and they get crazy. My cousin got sent to Puerto Rico to live with her religious aunt, and my sister got beat ’cause my father thought she was with a boy.’ For these adolescents, a safe space for discussion, critique, and construction of sexualities was not something they found in their homes. Instead, they relied on school, the spot they chose for the safe exploration of sexualities.” Though some groups will object to the way sex ed is taught in public schools. it is still necessary to teach sex ed.
    I think the quote above also reflects Pamela’s question of teaching about sexuality in the context of various cultural and/or religious beliefs. Would it be appropriate to examine cultural beliefs about sexuality in a sex ed class? This would not be a substitute for learning about sexuality, protection, etc, but could serve as a supplement to that material. It would be an interesting way to learn about students’ background knowledge and beliefs on the subject and could inform the techniques used to teach the information in later lessons.

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