Have you heard about the “What Would Your Mother Do?” underwear, a line of T-shirts and boy shorts that features slogan like “Zip It,” “Dream On,” and “Not Tonight”? According to the brand’s creators their “conversation underwear” will “empower” girls to “make good, informed decisions” about sex (although there is no mention of that rather “dangerous” word on the site) that are theirs and theirs alone. The only good and informed choice being not to have sex – of course.
Now while the idea of underwear with cute pro-abstinence slogans preventing teen sex is laughable (as one would assume that by the time young people weighing the option to have sex get down to their underpants it’s game on, right?), the lack of comprehensive sex education for kids who live in a culture steeped in sex and all the pleasures it brings is not. Though Canadians don’t seem to be as intent on the promotion of abstinence-only education as our neighbours to the south (where the funding of abstinence only sex ed programs jumped from $9 million to $176 million between 1997 and 2007), the derailment of the proposed changes to Ontario’s sex ed curriculum in 2010 is indicative of a loud, highly conservative and very vocal minority (I hope) who would support the same kind of focus here. A fact that is worrying, if only to left leaning folks like me.
Hardcore porn has become by default the sex education of today. – Cindy Gallop
A 2009 study by the security firm Symantec found that the fourth most-searched term among kids aged eight to eighteen – after Facebook, YouTube and Google – was SEX. For kids seven and under it was PORN. – Mashable
You see, kids, whether their parents readily admit it or not, are generally very interested in learning about sex and exploring their own sexuality (I know I was when I was a kid). And in the absence of access to clear, comprehensive education about such matters – at school or at home – curious kids will find their own way. Unfortunately from what I remember of my own childhood, as well as what I glean from my limited interactions with young people today, kids are finding their own way often involves perusing porn on the Internet (which overtime may lead to them developing a skewed view of what real life sex is like); seeking advice from their equally ill-informed peers; or worse yet, picking up tips from someone older and “wiser” than they, who may not have the most altruistic agenda – if you know what I mean. So, is it wise for parents, teachers or any other adults else genuinely concerned with the well being of the children in their lives to avoid open dialogue about sex due to embarrassment, awkwardness or fear? I think not.
Instead of telling kids to just say no, deflecting their questions about sex and/or buying them modern-day chastity belts in the form of boy shorts emblazoned with anti-sex messaging, the grown-ups in their lives would do well to provide them with accurate and age-appropriate information about sex when they indicate that they are interested and ready to receive it. Because with or without the help or influence of the adults who care about them most, kids will always find a way to see and learn about sex. Just as most adults, including myself did (long before the advent of the Internet I might add) when they were kids.
This article was previously published on December 14, 2011.