Rebecca Kamm

Poking a stick at ladies' issues, pop culture, and other cutting-edge curiosities.

Rebecca Kamm: Let's learn about sex, baby

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Do you remember learning about sex?
Photo / Thinkstock
Do you remember learning about sex? Photo / Thinkstock

Remember that time in your life when you had absolutely no idea what sex was? I recall discussing the topic in earnest with my best friend when we were small, both having turns figuring out what on earth that word meant, and why it seemed sort of secret. We eventually learned - thanks no doubt to one of those classmates who always seemed ten years ahead of the rest of us when it came to Knowing Adult Things. I think we were half amused, and half scared. Then we went back to trading Cat's Eye marbles for Glo Worms and it wasn't raised at school until we were 15, by which point half the class were regulars at Family Planning anyway.

These days, kids get taught about sex much earlier, and new media means teachers can get creative. Like the (anonymous) one who started Sex Questions From Seventh Graders, a Tumblr that's hot on the internerd right now. Designed for her year eight students to upload questions they were too shy to ask in class, the questions can be found here. I personally die the most at, "How fast could people go when you have sex?" closely followed by, "I heared that guys can have sex until they die is that true?"

I also quite like the Sex Squad game, dreamed up by the Middlesex London Health Unit in London, Ontario - or some creatives somewhere (Best.Project.Ever.) Meet Willy the Kid, Wonder Vag, Power Pap (?), and Captain Condom, all of whom dart around a surreal sexscape dodging the effluences of a nasty, STI-spreading "sperminator". Really.

It's not all cute blogs and cartoon sex heroes though. Things are a little more sober over in Tennessee, where a new bill forbids sex ed teachers from even mentioning sexual activity beyond handholding and kissing, because anything more is "gateway behaviour". That means no reference to "gateway body parts" - genitals, breasts, backside, inner thighs - which will work for sure, because preaching abstinence definitely helps lower teen pregnancy rates.

Meanwhile, debate rages on in Britain over a popular educative cartoon that features a naked couple chasing each other around the bedroom with a feather, and a (cartoon) ejaculation. The voiceover describes the activity as "fun and exciting", but the DVD was removed from classrooms when parents complained and schools minister Nick Gibbs "did not like what he saw".

Our very own sex ed was criticised recently, by a visiting physician who thought we ought to tell kids to wait until adulthood for sex, and have one sexual partner for life. Speaking on behalf of conservative lobby group Family First, Dr Grossman was countered by Family Planning chief executive Jackie Edmond: "We don't aspire to talking about the ideal of one sexual relationship. We are pragmatic - and we are dealing with young people." (For the record, sex ed in this country is mandatory and called Sexuality Education. You can read more here.)

Beyond explanations of doing it in real life, there's increasing demand internationally for schools to introduce porn education. (Alarming stat: 90 per cent of eight to 16-year-olds have viewed internet pornography, while 80 per cent of 15 to 17-year-olds have had multiple viewings.) As Australian social commentator Mia Freedman points out: "Think about what that means. The first time they do it, their mental hard drive will be filled with images of porn star sex - which is driven by money not pleasure... The men are huge. The women are hairless and often surgically altered. The sex itself is extreme to capture the attention of a jaded market. And teenagers will try to emulate what they've seen." Not only that - 88 per cent of the top selling porn titles involve physical aggression. Thanks, porn.

If all that has your head in a whirl, here's a quaint instructional video that shows the extent of sex ed in the 1940s and 50s. A time when sex ed didn't seem to really be about sex OR education, and heads could plunge firmly into sands. Dating Do's and Don'ts (1949) is the story of Woody - who, who, who should Woody ask the the Hi-Teen Carnival? "WHAT GIRL?" "WHO?"

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