Who Teaches Our Youth about Sex?
The Trinidad Express recently ran an article under the headline “Girl, 12, has sex with 5 pupils in one day”. Now I don’t know about you or anyone else who will read this article, but when I was 12, circa 1995, sex was the furthest thing from my mind. I was too busy studying, taking piano lessons and auditioning for choir.
I don’t know the young girl involved personally, but I’m willing to guess that she hasn’t been given these opportunities, if she managed to find time in her school day to engage in sexual intercourse and oral sex with five boys, who aren’t that much older than her.
It’s almost ludicrous that the boys involved may be charged with rape and grievous sexual assault, but I digress. I’m going to assume that none of the six teenagers thought about condoms, pregnancy, or the legal implications of their actions, even if they were consensual. All valid questions for sexually active persons, right? So what I really want to know is who teaches our young people about sex? And if they’re better educated, would it help them make better decisions?
My parents taught me about sex. Actually, they bought my sister and me a book when I was about eight years old with pictures and diagrams that explained everything, and told us if we had any questions we should ask them after we read the book. When I remarked to my mother that my parts were too small to allow for the activities being talked about and demonstrated in the book, she let me know that my body would mature in time, but that I should tell her if anyone ever tried to touch my private parts.
I didn’t realize how rare it was for children to have such conversations with their parents, until I took said book with me to primary school, only to be sent home for disrupting my class. Apparently, my classmates’ parents preferred to have their children believe that they came from the stork and/ or angels in heaven – anything but sex.
“I have long accepted that my countrymen have an almost puritanical, and even hypocritical approach to discussing sexual matters…”
I have long accepted that my countrymen have an almost puritanical, and even hypocritical approach to discussing sexual matters – in spite of its prevalence in the music we listen to, the way we speak, and the overtly sexual way in which we dance. Cue Machel Montano’s latest hit “Illegal Wine” and the actions that he outlines could “get ah woman charged for wining like that,” we somehow believe that our children remain innocent virgins until marriage, and that sexual predators don’t exist despite mountains of contrary evidence.
When political commentator Dr. Morgan Job remarked on national radio in the early 90s, “You had a better chance of finding a snowflake on George Street, Port of Spain than a 12 year old virgin”, he was soundly criticized. A decade later, we have 12-year-old girls acting the whore, and the only reason we know about it is because this particular girl bothered to tell her 28-year-old mother. If my grandmother was alive right now, she’d suck her teeth long and loud before exclaiming that “goat doh make sheep”.
“In an ideal world, parents would tell their children about sex, but the world isn’t ideal.”
In an ideal world, parents would tell their children about sex, but the world isn’t ideal. If 28 year olds can have 12-year-old daughters, then few will disagree that the writing on the wall for us. Early sexual activity among our nation’s children has serious social consequences, including teenage pregnancy a high sexually transmitted infections (STI) rate, single parent homes, child abuse… and I could go on.
So why haven’t we implemented a basic sex education programme in Trinidad and Tobago’s schools, or through after school initiatives like Girls Guides and Cub Scouts? Our children grow up with sex all around them. It may be easy and convenient to assign responsibility to the home, but we’ve tried that and it clearly isn’t working. Frankly, some parents are better educated, and therefore better equipped to discuss these things with their children. Why would I say this?
My father has a PhD, and most of my friends who are able to recall having an age-appropriate “birds and bees” conversation with one or both parents have at least one parent who benefitted from a university education. Better-educated parents, in my opinion are more likely to use sound logic to caution their children against early sexual activity. They’ve probably taken a class or read a book on human sexuality, and recognize the importance of arming their children with solid information early. Better-educated parents are also able to provide their children with various opportunities to explore things and participate in activities that will, in some cases, delay the need for sexual exploration. I know this view may seem narrow minded to some, but based on my experience, I think it’s true.
Sexual urges have been programmed into us from birth, so it goes without saying that whether or not we teach our children about sex, they’ll learn about it through any medium possible. I’m not naïve enough to think that sex education will prevent boys from bringing in an older male family member’s Playboy Magazine, or downloading pornographic images onto their smart phones. Neither will it stop our children from sexual experimentation. I argue, however, that it will give children context, and the ability to make sound decisions about their sexual choices. For the victims of incest and sexual abuse, these classes might even provide an avenue for them to get help sooner rather than later – before they start making kids, fares at 15 or 16, or end up facing charges of rape and sexual assault for consensual, sexual activity.
As a society, it’s high time we put aside our squeamishness about sex, and give our children the information they need to make empowered choices. We need to stop acting like sex is that dirty thing that we don’t talk about, but secretly like to do, and imitate doing en masse on Carnival Monday and Tuesday, and then go ask forgiveness for on Ash Wednesday.
Sex, and the hormones released during the sex act can make life complicated and messy even for a 12 year old. I’m not a prude, but I’m not going to apologize for saying that as a nation we’d be better off if we got our children to keep their legs closed, and their manhood to themselves and more focused on mastering math and science. Our kids deserve to know about sex and its consequences, sooner rather than later, so they can decide where to best utilize their energies. Don’t you agree?
Check out the rest of this week’s issue (28/3/11; Issue 50):
- Is Chutney Soca to blame for Stereotypes about Indo-Trinbagonians?
- The Guy Code: Honour Among Men
- Love or Pride. Which is Stronger?
- 8 Reasons Women Put so Much Stuff in their Bags
- Littering: Trinbagonians’ Ugly Side
Look out for a new issue of Outlish.com every Monday!