Schools are struggling to teach sex ed in the Internet Age, writes Alexandra Sifferlin in Time. Students are exposed to just about everything online.
In “the normally progressive Bay Area city of Fremont, California,” parents campaigned to remove the ninth-grade sex ed book, Your Health Today, she writes. Originally written for college students, the book includes “a how-to for asking partners if they’ve been tested for STDs, a debate on legalizing prostitution” and advice on bondage games.
“[One] kind of sex game is bondage and discipline, in which restriction of movement (e.g. using handcuffs or ropes) or sensory deprivation (using blindfolds or masks) is employed for sexual enjoyment. Most sex games are safe and harmless, but partners need to openly discuss and agree beforehand on what they are comfortable doing.”
Teri Topham doesn’t want her daughter “debating with other 13-year-olds how well the adult film industry is practicing safe sex.”
Asfia Ahmed, who has eight and ninth grade boys, complains the book “assumes the audience is already drinking alcohol, already doing drugs, already have multiple sexual partners.”
Fremont has many immigrant families from a variety of conservative cultures.
But school board members believe ninth graders should discuss in school what they’re seeing online.
The singer Rihanna, for example, has legions of young fans. Her music video for the song “S&M”—viewed more than 57 million times on YouTube so far—shows the artist, pig-tied and writhing, cooing “chains and whips excite me.” It then cuts to her using a whip on men and women with mouths covered in duct tape.
Sex is part of our culture, says Lara Calvert-York, president of the Fremont school board. “Highly qualified, credentialed teachers . . . know how to have those conversations. Because a lot of parents don’t know how to have that conversation when they’re sitting next to their kids and it comes up in a TV show.”
The board shelved the book — for a year — to consider the parents’ complaints.
A national sample study of 1,500 10 to 17-year-olds showed that about half of those that use the Internet had been exposed to online porn in the last year, writes Sifferlin.
How do you learn appropriateness and consent in a culture where Beyoncé’s song about pleasuring a guy in a car is championed by some as feminist and others as lewd? Or where Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” can refer to violent sexual acts in a music video viewed on the web at least 36 million times? . . . Or where primetime TV shows—the kind you often watch with your family—not infrequently make reference to anal sex?
A significant minority of teens are sexting suggestive photos to each other.
Yet actual sexual intercourse waits for the late teens, for most young people. The average boy is 16.9 years old when he has his first sexual experience, say researchers. The average for girls is 17.4 years old.
Some want to move sex ed online, writes Sifferlin. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy has developed Bedsider.org to discuss contraception. Teens can check out a variety of sites — StayTeen.org, GoAskAlice!, Scarleteen.com — or view YouTube videos such as Laci Green’s Sex Object BS.