Let's talk about sex: Ontario's new sex-ed curriculum

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Like this article? Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

I'm fine with the new Ontario sex-ed curriculum, I just wish there was more of it. It may seem lengthy because it's embedded in two voluminous documents. But they're the overall health and phys-ed courses, which include movement, nutrition, and even financial literacy. You have to comb through them for the sex -- as generations of humans always have.

The new curriculum is not puritanical, in the sense of stressing sex as all risks and perils, which I'd worried it might be. That was the traditional approach. It mentions affection and pleasure (though sparingly), desire, even eroticism (once, no elaboration). Probably just as well. You can't push the good side any more than the bad because kids will suspect anything adults push too much. Still, with all the negative info kids acquire, not just about the dangers of sex but about politics, work prospects, and the environment, it'd be nice to let them know from early on that there's nice stuff ahead too.

(It's also worth noting that curriculums get overstressed since they're easy to quote. But they're lesser factors since they must always be funneled through teachers, who are the core of the process.)

So what else might be included? How about why sex is important at all in human existence -- and how important it is. Not just for reproduction but as a fundamental force, a contender for top spot among drives and needs. You might think there was room for that factoid in the course of an education.

Kids may have noticed that the most accomplished among their elders seem routinely ready to risk everything in the pursuit of sex: Bill Clinton, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Jian Ghomeshi, and just this week the UN panel chair on climate change, even former Ontario deputy education minister Ben Levin, who was peripherally involved with this curriculum -- duly seized on by the dauntless Charles McVety in his crusade to keep Ontario's classrooms sexless.

Sage heads are always asking: Why do they risk it all -- for a brief moment in the oval office or elsewhere? The answer is obviously: they choose to and it seems self-evidently worth it. In other words, approve it or not, it's the human condition. Sex is a fairly constant preoccupation of almost every individual -- forever.

In that light what's amazing is that humans have managed to do so much else: agriculture, clothing, cuisine, not to mention the sciences and great TV shows. Culture, in a word. Freud didn't so much explain this as point it out, as something to marvel at and cope with, more or less effectively but never conclusively. It might help kids dealing with the dumfounding arrival of sexual impulses to learn that this is part of the eternal human estate, not just their personal burden or blight. Being overwhelmed and disoriented doesn't set them off from everyone; it's their membership card in the species. And by the way, without knowing that, your education will be incomplete. The curriculum could use more of it: not what to do, but where to slot it all.

I've been touched by the widespread affection teens and tweens had for one of those TV shows: How I Met Your Mother. It's a sweet show, built around the feelings and loyalties of a group of friends through numerous couplings and uncouplings. Many viewers were irked by the finale, which they found insensitive to the warmth between characters that had been established; as if, said one, the writers hadn't watched their own program.

It's possible the appeal of the show lay in a counterbalancing to the uncomplicated, unnuanced renderings of sex that have been available to these kids all their lives through the Internet. The Ontario curriculum, I think is especially good on those nuances: confusion, vulnerability, hard choices -- though most attention has gone to other aspects.

The late John Seeley, who I consider the smartest, kindest guy I ever knew, said there are many definitions of happiness but they should all include at least a component of what he called dermal contact: a deft, elegant term. Deft because it leaves room for the vast variety of sexual meanings and levels while insisting on none in particular: just some version or mix. Otherwise it might be happiness but it wouldn't be fully human.

This column was first published in the Toronto Star.

Photo: romana klee/flickr

Like this article? Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Related Items

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.