Reflections on Ethics 110
The shameful "shame-shame"
The Shame of No Sex Education
by: John Tyrrell
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Not that long ago, most people got their sex education as children through simple observation. As most families had little better than single room dwellings, children saw what their parents did. They probably saw what their elder siblings did as there was a good chance they continued to share accommodation after marriage. They also saw what the livestock did.
It may not have been formal education, but most of our our great-great grandparents generally knew what they were doing when they arrived for the first time at the marriage bed.
With better housing and with industrial progress removing people from farmland, sex education through watching others was lost. And increasingly, grown men and women spent their wedding night together not knowing what to do. If they were lucky, they'd have fun figuring it out. Or, it could be the first frustrating night of many in a relatively sexless marriage.
In the early twentieth century, a movement started to try to incorporate some sex education in schools to make up for this lack of basic human knowledge in children. By the time I hit school in the 1950s, there actually was some rudimentary sex education - but to be honest, it was so generalized and so lacking in details that I never did figure out what they were trying to teach. I had to discover female anatomy - and what to do with it - on my own.
But sex education did improve, and those students fortunate enough to encounter a good program are much more informed than even their great-great grandparents who actual got to regularly observe marital sexual relations.
But as long as there has been pressure to bring sex education into schools and to improve existing sex education programs, many Christian churches have such fought progress. They want people arriving at their wedding night, both virginal and ignorant. Quite honestly, I find it a ridiculous position considering that these same churches view the purpose of marriage to be procreation. If they were honest (apparently something not to be expected of a church) they would be all in favour of sex education - particularly with respect to the details of the basic process involving the penis and vagina.
But no. In spite of their supposed interest in encouraging reproduction, Christian churches fight sex education every chance they get.
There was a Dear Prudence (Slate's agony aunt columnist) letter in Slate yesterday which directly addresses the issue:
I am a 25-year-old man facing the biggest crisis in my life as I am going to get married. My brief background makes clear my distress. When I was around 10, my female cousin (around the same age) and I used to sleep together. On one such occasion, her hand accidentally touched my thigh and felt something bulging. She asked me what it was. In my childish enthusiasm I opened my shorts and she saw my erect penis. She got excited and started rocking it saying she has been able to see my “shame-shame.” Later, in the same excitement she told all this to her mother as though it were some achievement on her part! For this, both of us got a good spanking with a warning that it is indeed shameful for boys and girls to see the “shame-shame” of one another. As I grew older, I saw the same notion being reinforced in various situations. But the situation I am going to get into demands that the shameful be considered desirable! I have no idea how a grown-up young lady reacts on seeing a penis. Pray tell me whether she would feel shameful, angry, shocked, or worse still mock at my shame-shame. How do I even face the blasphemous prospect of her having to touch it with her hand? I do not see any escape from the situation I find myself in.
"[T]he blasphemous prospect of her having to touch it [his shame-shame] with her hand"!
How very, very sad.
It was for young men and women like this that the idea of sex education was put forward a hundred years ago. And a century later - there are still those kept wilfully ignorant by parents, and by churches. Wilfully ignorant Christian churches; ignorant Christian churches which want to keep children far more ignorant of sex than was their beloved Jesus who regularly got to watch Mary and Joseph in the process of begetting his brothers and sisters!
As the letter quoted above demonstrates, sex education is essential. If churches are fighting it in your schools, fight back. Demand children get a full and honest education.
And as the letter above also illustrates - a little experimentation and practice before marriage is not a bad idea either.
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