Kudos to Michael Castleman for his well-researched and compelling article on contemporary sex education in the U.S. However, as with most stories dealing with abstinence vs. comprehensive sex ed written by non-gay people (I'm making an assumption, here), he fails to mention that sub-group that's as much in need of explicit, no-nonsense sex education as the at-risk teen mother: gay youth.
Castleman mentions homosexuality only once, and in passing at that, a disappointing but too-common oversight not only by writers tackling this topic but, most frighteningly, by sex educators and administrators nationwide. We all know the statistics about the rates of gay teen suicide compared to their peers. How much of that could be reduced if gay youth and their issues -- psychological, emotional and sexual -- were addressed in the classroom, specifically in the context of sexuality education?
Teaching abstinence until marriage is admirable, but what happens to those students who cannot, by law, get married? What are they to be taught? No sex until domestic partnership? Or no sex at all? How unfortunate, misguided and dangerous that the ins-and-outs of gay sex -- the mechanics of which differ in many crucial ways from heterosexual sex (duh!) -- are excluded from the greater discussion of healthy sexuality. And how much heterosexual teens could learn about their gay classmates in the process!
Here's hoping Salon addresses this in future columns.
-- Erik Piepenburg
While I agree with Michael Castleman that parents are the best sex educators and it would be wise to underwrite their work to some extent with programs to train and encourage them, I couldn't disagree more that abstinence and comprehensive programs are somehow like lovers separated by the machinations of fate. Sex is preeminently adult behavior. Treating sex like recreation, a sport that admittedly may require some precautions, trivializes the life and death consequences of this behavior, and trivializes our sense of the value of human life.
Can we be surprised when a casual attitude toward sex leads to a casual attitude toward the product of sex -- a waste product of lust rather than a child to be cherished? Some things are right and some things are wrong. Exploiting others for selfish pleasure, risking one's life and health and future (and that of your partner), endangering or shortchanging the prospects of a child one cannot care for and violating the trust of one's parents is morally wrong.
-- Eric Olsen
I'm an average teenage boy. Some of the topics that I would rather not discuss with my parents are lovemaking without intercourse, mutual masturbation and oral sex. The idea of the surgeon general teaching children how to masturbate is both absurd and profoundly disturbing. Give your children some credit. They can figure out some things by themselves.
Mother Nature, in her wisdom, has made these things called hormones. These hormones tell us that sex is fun. They do their job well. We don't need to feel embarrassed while listening to our dad describe sex as God's greatest gift. There's a case to be made that the reason why today's teenagers are sexually conservative is that our parents were such sexual liberals. Hippie parents took the rebelliousness out of sex, the fun of doing something that will piss off your parents. Those baby boomer bastards also took the fun out of drugs and rock 'n' roll, but that's a different story.
-- Shmuel Marmorstein