Wednesday, 30 November 2016

The Facts of Sex

Recently, I came across a video on Facebook that blew my mind. It was an episode from an eight part series of sex education videos that is broadcast on Norwegian television and is aimed at children. It is factual and practical and extremely straight forward. The one I saw originally was episode six, which was about the vagina and menstruation. I thought it was an excellent teaching resource and one of such utmost importance, particularly for young girls, but also and probably more importantly on further thought, for young boys. 

Here was a video showing the female body and its functions, without mystery or shame. Without buzz words, without crude or uncomfortable jokes, without metaphors or innuendo. It simply described the body parts and how they function. I had never come across anything so informative in its simplicity and so progressive in its delivery. I was compelled to shout it from the rooftops and that I did. I shared it on my page, my profile and, thinking I was doing a huge public service, on a local mothers' group that, while notorious for its irrational conservativism and propensity for hysteria over seemingly scandalous issues, sometimes contained at least a handful of members with some common sense. I knew it would make waves, but hoped that the post would receive the usual response that my posts attracted; indifference. At the very least, I hoped that the admins would see that my intention was not to cause trouble, but to share what I truly believed was vital information.

It didn't go the way I'd hoped.

The original post was deleted. At first, I rolled my eyes in disgust, thinking it was a typical knee jerk reaction by the admins, but then thought maybe I had made a mistake and the post was lost in some error. I often participate in the online world whilst simultaneously juggling a million other tasks. So, I posted it again. It was deleted a second time, so then I knew that I wasn’t making a mistake. The admins had deleted the post. I didn’t think it violated the rules in that it was an education video about sex, a topic that often comes up in these types of groups, especially in regards to how to approach the subject with children.

While I wasn’t entirely surprised, I have to admit I was pissed off. Not because my post was deleted and that I took that personally. I’m not a fucking narcissist. I simply felt so strongly about the information and how it was set out; I was so sure that the information would be valuable and could help parents to educate not only their children, but themselves; I was so determined to get the information out there to help people demystify, remove shame and empower their children (and I have to admit my bias – particularly their daughters) that the post’s deletion left me beyond frustrated.

So, I posted this response:

I was immediately banned from the group. 

Not the first time, by the way.

I discussed it at length with a fellow member and friend, who is often the only ally I ever have among these conservative women. She has had many clashes in this group and when people have called her names and she has made complaints, she has simply been ignored. So, it was interesting, that a few days later, I received a message from the admin, explaining that complaints were received about my post and when it was re-posted after being deleted and because of my final post, they decided to remove me as a member, for being in violation of the rules and upsetting people. I was told I was free to re-join, however. Flabbergasted is an understatement. The stupidity was so overwhelming, the hypocrisy so blatant, I wanted to claw my face off.

I told them thanks, but no thanks and my friend and I started a new group. It’s called PMS: Progressive Mothers of Sydney. Here is my response to the admin:
“You did me a favour. I’m not interested in being a member of a group filled with such ignorance and close mindedness. I wasn’t proving a point. I genuinely found the resource valuable and thought that other women would understand how important It is to remove shame and mystery from our physical and reproductive bodies. I think it’s life-saving information to teach children that their bodies aren’t rude or grotesque or vulgar. They need to know how it works in a factual way. If this group finds that disturbing and offensive, the dysfunction lies with them not me. I’m disgusted and frustrated about the idiocy of these attitudes, but not in the least bit surprised. Keep your group. I’ve started my own and am seeking the company of more intelligent people. Feel free to publicly post my response. It’ll give everyone a laugh, but might reach a few still capable of enlightenment.”

I really believe….no I’m absolutely positive that teaching pre-pubescent and pubescent children how their bodies work, and that they are not shameful or disgusting, could save their lives. Having knowledge about your body and being prepared for the changes that will take place, understanding your self-determination, not being afraid or ashamed of your desires and functions; these things prevent unwanted or unpleasant sex, sexual assault and rape, unplanned pregnancy, self-hatred, eating disorders, low self-esteem. Imagine raising confident, knowledgeable, emotionally mature and mentally well young people in this regard. Picture the impact it will have on all aspects of their lives.

Sex education should be about the following, very important things. 

1. Function: how does the body work and why. The changes that occur during puberty and development should be described matter-of-factly using language and imagery that one would use to describe the function of the heart or the liver or the lungs. Anything less is merely fear, taboo and power imbalance left over from archaic religious delusion and sexist ideology. Our squeamish attitudes towards sex are dictated by outdated mores and deliberately unjust systems to control us. More specifically women.

2. Consent: we need to hammer this home. Young people need to understand what consent truly means. It means that when two (or more) people engage in a sex act, they must want to be there and are enjoying the act, THE ENTIRE TIME. It’s really that simple. The cup of tea analogy is one of the best I’ve ever come across. You can’t force someone to like tea! So don’t!

3. Pleasure: Sex should feel good. For everyone involved. Most sex education centres around boys’ pleasure. Young people learn that boys get an erection and they ejaculate. Fine. These are the facts. But often they aren’t taught adequately about girls’ pleasure. Sex education aimed at girls talks about the vagina, the entrance to the uterus. So girls are taught, first and foremost that they will be entered. They are taught about ovulation and that there are one of two outcomes following intercourse: menstruation or pregnancy. Fine. Functionality is important, but there are huge omissions. The clitoris is completely ignored. Discharge and moisture are shunned. I can feel you cringing now! Girls are given the impression that unless they are going to start a family, they aren’t having sex. 

4. Contraception and reproductive choices: all of them. Not just condoms or abstaining or the things girls must do to prevent pregnancy like it is solely their responsibility. Having sex for consensual and mutual pleasure, aside from doing it for the purpose of procreation needs to be discussed openly and truthfully. ALL options need to be laid out on the table and this becomes difficult when women all over the world are still fighting for full and unencumbered rights and control over their reproductive bodies. Abortion as a legal, accessible, safe and universal right needs to be provided as an option for young people when unwanted pregnancy occurs. Of course, the statistics for accidental and unwanted pregnancy dramatically drops, when young people are educated from the get go about how their bodies work and the ethics and obligations surrounding sexual activity.

We’ve got a long way to go, obviously. Whether that group had deleted my post and banned me or not, the bottom line is that Facebook itself removed the video and YouTube makes you confirm your age to view it. You have to prove you are an adult to watch a series of episodes aimed at children. Aside from the utter hypocrisy given the vile, misogynist, violent and abhorrent content that slips past the censors on both mediums, censoring valuable educational resources such as the Norwegian sex ed videos are doing us all a disservice.