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07 June, 2007

Sex Education, Andromeda Appendix

I've actually been thinking a lot about the whole sex ed thing, through reading everyone's collective contributions and discussions I'm having elsewhere. And it gets me wound up like I don't really get wound up on teh intarwebs anymore, this whole thing about sex education.

I take it so damn personally.

Because sex education is a place where The System completely and utterly betrayed me. Not just fucked me over bureaucratically (the story of much of it) or didn't manage to transfer necessary skills (much of which was at least as much my fault as The System's). Beyond that.

The sex ed I got from the school system (all six and a half fucking hours of it, total, in twelve years in the public schools) was all about How To Be Safe, with a bit of biology on the side so I knew what to expect from puberty and a little bit of the process of pregnancy. And if I wanted to be Safe I needed to avoid these diseases, not stash sperm near my ovaries, and then I would be okay.

And I didn't even run into a real predator, for whom How To Be Safe is a much more complicated proposition. I ran into another badly instructed kid, and I don't think either of us came across the word "consent" in the information we'd gotten from The System (I should find my copy of the book my parents gave me and see if "consent" is in there, but I don't actually think so), and we certainly didn't know how to negotiate it or think about it.

And yeah, it'd have been good if that kid had had the guts to say, "Hey, are you interested in this touch?" rather than trying it out on me and seeing if I punched him in the nose. And it would have been good if I'd known where my boundaries were ahead of time, rather than having to try to figure it all out on the fly and feeling over my head and too late to speak up. But deriving that shit from first principles with no support, no errors, and no clear implementation isn't exactly something that a fourteen-year-old in the middle of hormone stew is going to be skilled at. (He was seventeen. I don't know that seventeen is much better, or, for that matter, less stew-y.)

Everything I needed to know to be Safe was that if I didn't say Yes it was rape. Oh, and blood contact transmits AIDS.

That's what they taught me.

There's this little screaming voice somewhere in the back of my heart who sees an earnest person who does not mean harm saying, "Look, but we don't know if they're teaching good information in those classes, that's reasonable concern" and ... this is the person who The System was trying to appease when it lied to me, symbolically speaking.

It's hard to respond to that rationally.

I mean, a rational voice might point out that you know exactly as much about what your school's sex ed classes are teaching the kids as you do about what they're teaching about geography or science: you have the same level of access to the handouts and research materials, the same ability to look at the school curricula, the same ability to write cranky letters to the administration about it and get it adjusted. That's a rational thing to say, a rational thing to point at.

But of course learning where Madagascar is isn't as fucking terrifying as learning where the clitoris is, and the existence of electrons doesn't hold a candle to the danger of the existence of gay people.

And I can't be rational about this. There's this little chunk of my psyche that responds to the Dutiful Parent With Concerns as if it were the great oceanic beast come lurching up to devour the virgin sacrifice where The System left her bound and vulnerable to pay for its hubris. I can't be rational, with my heart tasting of sea spray and terror.

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