Sex Ed in the age of Rihanna

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.

 

Why teens sext

About a third of older teens have sent a naked photo of themselves, usually to a boyfriend or girlfriend, writes Hanna Rosin in Why Kids Sext in The Atlantic.

Why do teens sext? Because they’re stupid?

‘Porn prof’ faces sexting scandal

Pasadena City College’s  “porn professor” won’t be demonstrating a threesome in front of his Navigating Porn class. Hugo Schwyzer, whose “sexts” with a porn actress were posted online — will go on leave to deal with his bipolar disorder.

'Sexters' threatened with suspension

New York City’s public school students caught “sexting” — sending explicit messages or photos — will face a 90-day suspension — even if they’re sexting at home on their own time.

Under proposed new rules, students also could be suspended for “cyber-bullying” a classmate.

Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union said public schools should not regulate activities outside schools. Unless sexting is narrowly defined, she said, students could be punished for harmless love notes.

Most sexting starts as a consensual act: A girl sends a sexy message to her boyfriend. If he sends it on to a few friends, it can get nasty. But I can’t see that adolescent foolishness is the school’s business.

Cyber-bullying is a tougher call because the victim may be afraid to come to school.

Beware of nattering nanny-staters, says Hot Air.

Sexting is popular

More than a quarter of young people have been involved in sexting — “sharing sexually explicit photos, videos and chat by cell phone or online” — according to an Associated Press-MTV poll. One third of young adults also say they’ve sent or received explicit photos.

. . . 14 percent said they suspect the pictures were shared without permission, and they may be right: Seventeen percent of those who received naked pictures said they passed them along to someone else, often to more than just one person.

Boys were more likely to say that sexting is “hot,” while most girls called it “slutty.” But they still do it.

‘Sexting’ witch hunt

Told to investigate “sexting” at his Virginia high school, an assistant principal spent $150,000 defending himself from child pornography charges because he kept the evidence — a photo of a semi-nude girl found on a boy’s cell phone — on his computer.  Wired has the story:

Ting-Yi Oei, a 60-year-old assistant principal at Freedom High School in South Riding, Virginia was told to see if students were exchanging sexy photos on their cell phones. He found only one example: A boy showed him a photo of a topless girl with her arms folded in front of her breasts.

Oei says he showed the image to his boss, Principal Christine Forester, who told him to preserve a copy on his office computer for the investigation.

. . . Oei and the school security specialist interviewed more students, but were unable to find additional pictures or identify the girl in the photo.

When the boy who’d had the photo got in trouble for something else, his mother blamed Oei and called the police.

A month later, the first charges were filed against Oei: failure to report suspicion of child abuse, a misdemeanor. The charge alleged that Oei had a legal duty to report the girl’s photo to her parents, and to state agencies or law enforcement.

“First of all, nobody thought this was reportable,” Oei says. “Who would have thought this was suspected child abuse?”

Oei also hadn’t known the girl’s identity and therefore wasn’t able to notify her parents.

Loudoun County prosecutor James Plowman demanded that Oei resign. When the veteran educator refused, Plowman filed felony charges of child pornography, which could have put Oei in prison for five years and labeled him a sex offender for life.

 

Warned that their house could be searched, (Oei’s wife Diana) Curling went through the family photos to see if there were any baby pictures of their now-grown children in a state of undress. “Heaven forbid that a parent might think it was cute for a baby to play in a bubble bath and there might be an inappropriate part showing,” she says. “Luckily all of our rubber-ducky baby photos had the children covered in bath bubbles or something.”

After a year of hell, a judge threw out all the charges, saying the photo wasn’t pornographic.  The prosecutor is unrepentant.

Teens fight self-abuse charges

Threatened with child molesting charges for a bra-clad slumber-party photo of herself that showed up on a cellphone, a high school cheerleader refused to cop a plea. Along with two other girls, she’s filed suit against the overzealous prosecutor.

Marissa Miller and two other Tunkhannock, Pa., high school students say a prosecutor retaliated when they rejected his deal in a case over cellphone photos he called “provocative.”

. . . (The photo) showed Marissa and a friend from the waist up. Both were wearing bras.

(Prosecutor) Skumanick said he considered the photo “provocative” enough to tell Marissa and the friend, Grace Kelly, that if they did not attend a 10-hour class dealing with pornography and sexual violence, he was considering filing a charge of sexual abuse of a minor against both girls. If convicted, they could serve time in prison and would probably have to register as sex offenders.

Seventeen other students took the deal.

Criminalizing adolescent folly is nuts. Is there no sexual violence, abuse of minors or kiddie porn in Tunkhannock?

Meanwhile, in Britain, an 18-year-old boy painted an Iron Age fertility symbol with a 60-foot phallus on the new roof of his parents £1million house, reports the Daily Mail. He was hoping it would show up on Google Earth. No prosecution is planned. Just a new paint job.

Sexting stupidity

“Sexting” teens are facing child pornography charges for sending and receiving naked photos, even if it’s a 14-year-old girl sending her own photo to her boyfriend.  Surely, bringing felony sex charges against foolish adolescents isn’t the best way to protect them from their own folly, writes Dahlia Lithwick on Slate.  These kids could end up on a sex offender registry.

. . . the great majority of these kids are not predators and have no intention of producing or purveying kiddie porn. They think they’re being brash and sexy, in the manner of brash, sexy Americans everywhere: by being undressed. 

Online harassment poses a greater risk to teens than voluntary exposure, Lithwick writes.

 Parents need to remind their teens that a dumb moment can last a lifetime in cyberspace. Judges and prosecutors need to understand that a lifetime of cyber-humiliation shouldn’t be grounds for a very real and possibly lifelong criminal record.

One in five teens admitted to “sexting” nude or semi-nude photos to a friend in a national survey.