What We Can & Shouldn’t Learn About Sex & Relationships From School, Parents & Cartoon Bears

AGWDM cartoon bearsThere’s a part of me that says that schools have no business teaching sex education, at least in the way it’s currently being taught.

When my sons were in high school, they didn’t learn much about sex at school. About the only think my oldest son got out of sex education at school was, “All they told us is that we should wear a condom, but they never told us how to put one on or use one.”

I would love to say that it’s parents’ jobs to teach their kids about sex and relationships, but I don’t know how many times I’ve heard friends of mine and other people say things like, “Like hell my kids are going to have sex before they get married! They know better!”

Umm … Yeah. Right … NOT!

Aside from statistics I’ve seen that say 90%-97% of people don’t wait until marriage to have sex and that the average person loses their virginity when they’re 17 years old, the abstinence-only, premarital or extramarital shaming, or not talking about sex at all approaches to sex education simply don’t work. They don’t just hurt teens, many of whom will defy what they’ve heard and what they’ve been told or not told, but also adults that hang onto such powerful messages they hear in their developmentally formative years. The number of years between high school and adulthood are very few. It doesn’t take long for sexually- and relationship-ignorant teenagers to become sexually- and relationship-ignorant adults.

The trigger that got me going off on this tangent came from a post I read in Sweet Woman, Dirty MindCartoon Animals Expose Ridiculous Abstinence-Only Lessons. The post features videos based on and tears apart messages that are taught in Choosing the Best abstinence-only until marriage curriculum. Sex ed curricula like this, especially when it’s taught in public schools, infuriates me to no end, but it’s not much different than the messages a lot of kids get either directly or indirectly from their parents and other adults in their lives.

Here’s one of those cartoon animal videos that got my blood boiling…

“The main things women need are … financial support,” said one of the cartoon bears who talked about what he/she learned in abstinence-only class. “Men need women to think that they’re strong … and they need someone to help with the cooking and cleaning … and girls should be careful about how they dress, like not wearing low-cut sweaters … The speaker said it’s girls’ responsibility not to get a guy’s microwave running.”

“And what’s the guy’s responsibility?” the other cartoon bear asked.

“I don’t know,” the abstinence-only-educated bear said.

“I don’t know”??? Like hell!

I spent more time talking about sexual responsibility with my sons more than anything else about sex when they were teenagers. While I wasn’t giving my sons the green light to have sex while they were in high school, I gave a lot of reasons why sex is an adult activity that comes with adult responsibilities, especially when it came to things like dealing with unintended pregnancy, STIs, STDs, respect and consent. Even though I told them that I thought they were capable making responsible decisions based on things we talked about, many people in their peer group probably couldn’t. I also asked them about how they would handle any possible adverse effects of being sexually active on their own without Mama’s help because, “I’m not bringing up any more babies,” and “I’d really hate to see you lose someone who could be ‘the one’ because you have a health-threatening STD. I wouldn’t blame anyone for turning you down for that. It’s a legitimate reason. I’ve had to do that myself.”

Lisa also featured another video about how women shouldn’t have ideas of their own and have no business having equal say in relationships.

“The speaker told us a story about a prince and a maiden. The dragon is attacking the maiden’s home and the prince tries to slay it. The maiden suggested that he use a rope instead of a sword. He does. He kills the dragon. Then another dragon attacks. The maiden suggests he use poison this time. He does, but he’s mad about all the suggestions. He leaves the maiden for another princess who doesn’t know anything about dragon slaying. So we learned not to act like the first maiden because too many suggestions will drive a guy away.”

I hear this crap from my parents all the time. I heard it often when I got pissed off with my ex about things he did or didn’t do when our sons were kids. “Back off of him,” they said. “He’s already getting it from both sides (meaning me and his wife, who I’ve nicknamed Her Supreme Cuntiness).

My parents talk this way about my oldest daughter-in-law, who is extremely intelligent and speaks her mind.

“She has too much influence over Caleb*,” they’ve told me on several occasions. “She doesn’t allow him to have a mind of his own.”

They’ve never said these things to her, but she and my son know that my parents don’t like her. They’re very icy towards her and they’ve expressed disappointment to my son. Yet they can’t understand why the two of them don’t talk to them often or want to spend all kinds of family time with them on holidays and special occasions. They see their “behavior” as being “disappointing” and “disrespectful”.

From what I hear and see, the two of them have a great way of making decisions together on things that affect both of them. It’s not a perfect relationship. No partner always gets everything they want, but it’s a model relationship. I’ve never heard either of them complain about their marriage, but the extended family dynamics are troublesome and a pain in the ass for them because they (and I) believe that family matters, even when you’re no longer a child.

At least my son learned one of the most important lesson I taught him when he was growing up: respect is earned and it goes both ways, whether it’s between parent and child or sex/relationship partners.

While all of the abstinence-only curriculum videos that Lisa of Sweet Woman, Dirty Mind featured all outraged me, this one pissed me off the mos. It’s the same kind of messaging I heard from my parents and other older family members and friends when I was growing up and still hear today.

“The teacher passed around a rose and had us each take off a petal. Then she said that the rose was now like someone who has had sex before marriage. They lose their beauty and value … Then she told us that having sex is like reaching into a bag of candy where some of it has been chewed and spit back into the bag. Who would ever want used candy? … Then she told us to imagine a really gross toothbrush that a lot of people have used. If you’ve had sex, you’re the toothbrush … Then she had everyone spit in a cup. She passed me the cup … Then she asked me to drink the spit … She said that’s what losing your virginity is like.”

I never heard those comparisons, but I’ve heard some pretty damning things about “those kinds of women”. I heard this kind of crap when I was a kid about my aunt, my dad’s sister, when she was dating after her divorce. When I was going through my divorce, my dad told me, “No one will ever want you. You’re damaged goods.” And don’t even ask how many times I’ve been referred to as “the cow” in the comment, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” I’ve lost count.

I’m not against marriage, but I sure as hell know that most marriages are not happily-ever-after couplings, even among people who stick together until death do them part. As a kid and a teenager, I was often confused why sex before marriage was a bad thing, but sex in marriage was a beautiful and wonderful thing.

Passing along these messages like these really fucks with kids’ and even adults’ minds. Ask any mental health professional how often they have these conversations with clients and they’ll tell you, “Plenty.”

These sex-shaming messages in schools and from parents and adults needs to stop. Now. I highly suggest that you check out the mission behind Advocates for Youth and Amplify, which produced these videos. There are so many positive ways how schools, parents and adults can change the script about sex and relationships.

*Name has been changed to protect the innocent from being shamed.

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About Bobbie Morgan (1247 Articles)
Bobbie Morgan is the beditor-in-chief of A Good Woman's Dirty Mind. When she's not blogging or having the best sex ever, she's putting out writing and social media services for adult businesses. Use the contact link to reach her by email.

13 Comments on What We Can & Shouldn’t Learn About Sex & Relationships From School, Parents & Cartoon Bears

  1. That is just staggering!
    You might be able to believe that this was the advise given out in the 1950s, but now? Good grief. No wonder you were pissed off.
    Men don’t want women with a brain. Where did they find this trash. I’m sure there are men like that, but would you want to breed with them? Darwin pointed out the answer to that problem.
    I’m going to stop now, my blood is boiling and steam is going to come out of my ears soon.

    • Bobbie Morgan // August 17, 2015 at 4:33 pm // Reply

      Believe it or not, some men are intimidated by smart women or women who enjoy sex or are very skilled at it. The reasons I’ve heard, even outside of religious/conservative circles, is that women like that have no sense of morals all the way to women like “that” GIVEE men performance anxiety. (Once again, let’s blame women for men’s *short* *comings*.)

      And thanks for bringing up Charles Darwin. That sounds like it could be a seriously hilarious blog post!

  2. I really like what John Oliver said about these “plucked roses” and “chewed-up candy” analogies. Kids who miss school that day get a better education than those who attend. Had a long conversation with my niece just this weekend about this exact subject. It infuriates her too, especially how so much focus is put on women and their responsibility to remain chaste and pure and fend off advances while boys are told to suspect and avoid women who may be “used goods” or dangerous seductresses. Disgusting.

    • Bobbie Morgan // August 17, 2015 at 4:38 pm // Reply

      I don’t think I’ve ever head anyone refer to a man who has had multiple partners as “used goods”, “damaged goods”, “trash” or the hundreds of other derogatory euphemisms for women that out there.

  3. Bobbie, have you ever read what kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart had to say about “chewed-up candy” analogies shared with her by Mormon teachers? Her abductor raped her repeatedly, and she said she believed there was no point in trying to escape. Her value was gone and no one would ever want her.

    These metaphors hurt teens in countless ways – not least girls who are coerced or raped. I’ve read too many accounts of girls who felt worthless for years because they’d lost their all-important virginity. Because of how Christianity puts responsibility on women to remain chase, they typically believed they had done something wrong to prompt the abuse.

    • Bobbie Morgan // August 17, 2015 at 4:53 pm // Reply

      In the video clip I sent you about John Oliver’s take on sex ed (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0jQz6jqQS0), he included a video of Elizabeth Smart talking about her teacher and the “used up piece of gum”. It was truly heartbreaking. I almost cried.

      I can’t tell you how long it took me to get over my shame after I was coerced to have sex when I was 14-15 years old. After that happened, I felt like, “What’s the point of remaining a virgin? I’m already ‘used goods.'” It took me until I was well into my 20’s to realize that I was a sexually ethical adult.

  4. Also, Re: Your son & daughter-in-law, I would be tempted to ask my parents, “If he were threatened by her ideas, wouldn’t she be better off without him?”

    Your parents sound absolutely toxic when it comes to sex, relationships and gender roles. They have no business telling other adults how to live their lives.

    • Bobbie Morgan // August 17, 2015 at 5:02 pm // Reply

      I take their comments about my daughter-in-law to be just as big as a slam against my son. Clearly, they don’t think that he’s “a man”.

      Even though my son and daughter-in-law have come *this short* of outright calling my parents assholes, the concept of family is very important to them. She’s never encountered this kind of hostility in her close and extended family.

      I keep a pretty far distance from my parents, but when I have to spend time with them. I just don’t want to ignite any more flames. I just don’t have the room for the enormous amount of bullshit that it takes up in my head.

  5. Reinaldo DaSilva // August 17, 2015 at 6:20 pm // Reply

    I don’t know about the bears, but from what I’ve seen, any sex education done by the schools, at least the schools I know, is awful. At best, at least they don’t blush if they write the word “penis” on the board (As my biology teacher did in high school). And, as a sex therapist, I get to know what many adults know. I sure don’t want any of them teaching their own children, let alone others.

    • Bobbie Morgan // August 17, 2015 at 7:25 pm // Reply

      Reinaldo, thanks for commenting on my post from a sex therapist’s point of view.

      I’m not a sex therapist, but what has or what would be the response or reaction to having a sex therapist come into schools and talk to students or advise teachers and administrators on developing and presenting curriculum?

      Each of my kids took a semester-long required lifeskills class (cooking, cleaning, personal finance). It was all stuff I taught and expected them to help out with at home. Shouldn’t sex considered to be a life skill? I only remember having one 90-minute class on sex ed when I was in the 1980’s it only focused on the danger of herpes. My kids told me was all they learned was to use a condom to prevent unintended pregnancies, STIs and STDs. One of my daughters-in-law taught sex ed classes at the health clinic when she was a college student. Aside from the students not being receptive to one of their peers teaching the class, they had pretty shitty attitudes about the importance of learning how to put a condom on properly, let alone the need to wear one.

      • Maybe things are different here in the UK. My sons go to a church school but they still got a lot more sex ed than this sounds like. As part of the lifeskills lessons my older son (and I expect my younger one will have it this coming year) had a lesson where they have to bring in a banana to use to practice putting condoms on. I think a lot of the local schools use specialist sex education teachers for these and other more indepth sessions. Other sessions are taught by their regular teachers.
        I haven’t watched it yet but there was a TV program broadcast here last week where a Belgium sex educator was running some sessions in schools in the UK where it sounds like she goes much further than my kids teaching at school went.

  6. I don’t want or need public schools to teach my kids about sex. My wife and I taught our kids (five) ourselves and spoke very plain and simple when age appropriate. We taught abstinence without all the judgy crap in those videos.

    We taught that virginity was the greatest gift they could give to their husbands or wife. There was no shaming. Only one of the five is a virgin but I wouldn’t do it any other way. My wife was a virgin when we married. I wish I would have been one for her. It was a great gift.

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