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Teaching Sex Education And Self-Esteem In School Will Help Destroy The Toxic Culture We Live In!

Posted: June 1, 2020

Our teacher skipped the word ‘kiss’ in one of the lines of a poem, as we strained to hear if she actually whispered the word or skipped it completely!

Earlier, I wrote a blog post about how schools can help reduce the kind of misogyny and sexism that the children are raised on. Right from separating the boys and girls in class to the brutal and cruel punishments they are given, all these contribute to how our children grow up.

Additionally the sensitisation of not just the textbooks and toys but also while hiring high school teachers is a good way to promote gender equality. 

However, educational institutions, especially schools and teachers need to take care of other things as well. These things will help bridge the gender gap while also raising sensitive and feminist children.

The lack of sex education at school

Remember that senior school biology class on menstruation or procreation where students stole furtive glances and suppressing their awkward giggles? Meanwhile, the teacher, most often female, would either entirely skip the topic out of the exam syllabus or wait for the class to get over. Remember how even the teachers seemed to feel uncomfortable as she explained the female reproductive system? 

I still remember my class nine English teacher was uncomfortable reading aloud the romantic ballad ‘ The Highway Man.’ The teacher skipped the word ‘kiss’ in one of the lines, as we strained to hear if she actually whispered the word or skipped it completely!

Lack of sex education from teachers and even parents makes these children search for their answers via casual internet browsing and pornography. Porn, often, is a safe haven for boys to wallow on the toxic representation of sex where women are objectified and whose consent doesn’t not matter. What do girls learn when they watch porn apart from the fact that their role in the act of sex is nothing but being mute pleasure givers? Do they learn that they are not pleasure seekers or initiators?

Once again this tilts the axis of power dynamics in favour of men without space for conversations around orgasm inequality. Now you see how rape culture is prevalent and normalised in our schools and houses? How incidents like ‘boys locker room’ are an outcome of sex education not being a part of school curriculum? And how parents not being sexually liberated leads to their children finding answers on their own via unhealthy means?

Is sex education a mere biology lesson?

Is sex education only about understanding reproduction, biology and mechanics of sex or reproduction? What about conversations on pleasure, sexuality, identity that develops from sexuality, interpersonal relationships? And what about consent, negotiation and expressing boundaries in these relationships and mental health and well-being related to gender and sexuality?

Most sex education monologues by teachers and parents are mission oriented and focused more on abstinence, celibacy, fear of contracting STI’s. They are homophobic, associate purity to virginity and speak of the horror of unplanned pregnancies.

What about the grey areas of creating safe space where students get an opportunity to discuss about the importance of consent, negotiation during intercourse? Is there a place where they can learn about accepting rejections and establishing boundaries of non-sexual, non-romantic relationships? What about learning of how to be empathetic and respectful to people of not just of the opposite sex but with different sexual preferences?

When did we see teachers or parents talking about sperms as an outcome of male orgasm? I mean how can we teach students the fertilisation of an ovum without even teaching them where and how sperms or ovum arise rather than showing diagrams of it floating in the air!

Isn’t it also a little about pleasure part of sex?

Since the reproductive ability of a couple is directly linked to a man’s reproductive ability (inherently related to their achieving an orgasm,) one might understand why their pleasure is prioritised. Now this reinforces the idea that women are nothing but baby producing machines whose pleasure is not a priority (or worse fake it up to get the job done.)

The focus on the mechanical act of reproduction has led to almost zero information about female reproductive anatomy and erogenous zones. Apart from uterus, how many biology teachers spoke about the difference between urethra and uterus, vulva and vagina, external and the internal clitoris? How many educators are open to the concept of masturbation and do not view it as a taboo practiced by some mentally sick psycho?

And how can we teach pleasure, good touch, bad touch if women or men aren’t given the space to understand or even explore their bodies by stereotyping masturbation? How many educators are comfortable with their own skin and body structure? Just how many are comfortable sporting a paunch and worry about how unseemly the paunch looks and about body shaming during sex? How can we instil a sense of confidence and well-being among students about their bodies if we are not comfortable with our own?

We need to create safe spaces for students

Safe spaces for conversation can only happen when teachers are comfortable sharing their learnings from their sex life with students. There is no harm in sharing the naivety of first kiss to the mature learning and understanding of the importance of consent and negotiation as time progresses.

During my conversations about my learning with my students I come across high school girls who liked being squeezed or embraced more tightly when their boyfriends kissed them. This was because the girls thought that’s what the boys liked without realising that both never spoke about gentleness or about how the other felt.

Instead of shunning relationships among adolescents, judging them as students involved in PDA and shaming them for breaking school rules, I gave them a safe space to speak up. Or else these girls would never have known the importance of being touched gently and converse openly about their likes and dislikes. We can never call ourselves the land of Kamasutra and tantric- sex if educators and parents don’t come out of their shy or taboo zones of having open conversations about sex.

Self-esteem for the win!

Schools are the perfect factories where children are taught the mad race of winning, walking in a line, and colouring in a line. If a child is not a winner, then he/she is a loser. And if a child is not good, then the opposite is a bad child.

This definition like good-bad, winner-loser instead of identifying grey areas, becomes the perfect place that teaches a kid to fit in and be a part of group dynamics. Rather than feeling abundant in one’s own identity, they are put in these moulds.

Gone are the days when the self-abundance depicted in the poem ‘Solitary Reaper’ was taught. Students now feel secure being part of a social group and the validation that comes being a part of the binary spectrum of being good and winners. Why won’t students prefer group identity given how we are so fixated on preferring good children and winners?

As teachers, do we question the grey areas? Is winning the opposite to failure or good the opposite of bad? No, the opposite to loss is learning, learning from failure. And the opposite of bad is not a good child but a child who is evolving from past or coping with difficulties and insecurities.

Teach them that learning is also a good thing!

Learning, evolving are the grey areas that many educators ignore. This is because we are so fixated with getting answers and reaching the destination rather than focusing on the the journey.

So, what happens when we teachers project our binary perceptions on children? The outcome is lack of self-esteem or a lack of feeling of abundance. When a child figures out that they are not a part of the winners’ or good children’s club, they try to ape and fit in the larger group. They do all this instead of looking inward and realising their strength, learning, evolutions and their wild flower uniqueness.

These children grow up to become students or adults who are ready to give into the culture of dating to look cool among their classmates. It doesn’t matter that the relationship is a toxic, use and throw one.

So why blame kids for getting into insecure relationships when we as teachers, a part of the society, don’t feel secure about being single. When we aren’t comfortable with live-in relationships? Why blame them when we are insecure to walk out of a toxic marriage just to get the validation as a married woman? Is there a point in blaming the kids for their choice of insecure relationships? I say this, especially when we never worked on our own self-esteem, inherent lack of abundance of the self and our perception of looking at everything in black-white?

Time for a change now?

To conclude rape culture in school ecosystems has been normalised due to a lot of practices that we subconsciously accepted without looking beyond them. It is so because we never thought of how they promote toxic power dynamics and the entitlement without the fear of consequences associated with power.

Now, it is time the schools ask kids to rewrite popular fairy tales of Cinderella, Rapunzel. It is time boys figure out that their role in a relationship is not just about being the protector or provider and the romance initiator. And it is time girls also figure out that they can have a great life, be their own protectors and lovers without the happily ever after.

Picture credits: Still from Bollywood movie Gippi

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