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Recently, the Los Angeles Times ran a story reporting that teachers in Oxford, Mississippi in the USA asked students to unwrap a piece of chocolate, pass it around class and observe how dirty it became in an effort to show how “used” girls become once they have sex!

No, sadly, I’m not kidding.

When one parent of sons, Marie Barnard, found out this had happened she approached the school. “They’re using the Peppermint Pattie to show that a girl is no longer clean or valuable after she’s had sex—that she’s been used. … That shouldn’t be the lesson we send kids about sex,” Barnard told the Los Angeles Times. Barnard and other parents then lobbied for the school to change its sex education curriculum. Go Marie!

This story going viral across social media led me to check in with my teenagers about what they happened to be learning in Sex-Ed classes at their Aussie Catholic college…and I almost fell off the chair!!

Firstly, let me make this clear – I talk about sex and sexuality quite openly with my children in the hope that they will grow up to be open minded, without hang-ups and armed with accurate knowledge about the normalcy of their anatomy, and sex. I

I like to think I’ve armed them with values and I try to reinforce a sense of self-worth in them. I have a daughter as well as sons and I have taught them all to honour themselves as well as others (damn, I hope I have!).

I’ve never been 100% comfortable with my kids going through the Catholic school system, for a number of reasons. For one, while they and their dad are Catholic, I am an atheist. I was baptised Anglican and attended Sunday school – it just doesn’t resonate with me.

I was concerned about certain teachings of the Catholic faith. For example, I am pro-choice and obviously that isn’t aligned with the values of the Catholic Church. I believe in sex education that is inclusive of contraception, not just abstinence. I believe in marriage equality for all and clearly the Vatican doesn’t.

So I made compromises.

My kids and I have always discussed what they’re learning at school and we have discussed what they might have missed out on. For example, my kids are very aware that many religions exist, not just their own. They also know about condoms, the risk of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. Personally I think it’s naive to teach abstinence as the only answer. I was a teenager once too! I haven’t dumbed down things for my children. A vagina is a vagina and a penis is a penis in my house!

So imagine my shock, as a forward thinking parent when my kids told me that their school is teaching them about “master-bation”. Yes, that’s how the teaching staff, and now apparently most of the kids are pronouncing masturbation. Really?! Alarm bells went off in my head, not because they are discussing masturbation, which they certainly should, but because if the very pronunciation of a word like masturbation can be so alarming wrong – what other stuff are they not getting right?

According to my 13 year old son, the majority of their school based sex education is focusing on “porn addiction”. Talking about porn is progressive I thought until he elaborated that they were being told that if they watch porn, they will most definitely get addicted – especially if you happen to be male (because apparently by default being male means you are incapable of any self-control or common sense!) – and then once addicted (which remember is a given), you will not be able to get an erection unless you are watching porn.

Ummm? What?! How dare they treat boys as ignorant idiots incapable of understanding and practicing any moderation. Or worse, treating them like Neanderthals who cannot think of anything else other than porn once exposed… Yes, I know damn well that boys in the grip of puberty are often thinking about naked bodies and sex – but scaring them with misinformation is just ridiculous! Shaming kids, male or female, about sex is just fucked up!

How many kids in that class walked away thinking they were doomed because they’d been watching porn?

As a parent of teenagers, I really do worry that they are exposed to more soft porn and sexualisation that any other generation before them. While teenage boys of my generation were still hiding Playboy mags under the mattress, these days every time Mr 13 or Miss 16 hit the internet chances are pop up side bars with advertisements for sex sites are in full view. Sadly I’ve witnessed it. This really is the XXX-Generation and yes, it’s bullshit, but this is what we have right now so best we deal with it logically.

I always thought the best offence was a good defence. By that I mean being open and talking to my kids about anything and everything, in a manner appropriate for their ages. It’s bad enough that some of their perceptions surrounding sex comes from ill-informed whispers in the school ground but it’s worse to find out that they are getting misinformation from the sex-education teacher. Sometimes I’m even amazed at what they actually do know!

I don’t want my children to feel ashamed about natural biological impulses, such as masturbation and desire. I want them to be able to pronounce sexual terms properly in conversation also! I know, crazy right?

I want them to grow up to feel secure in themselves, to understand that consent must be mutual, that women enjoy sex as much as men and it simply makes them normal – not less than. I want them to know that “slut shaming” (I so hate that term) is just another way of demoralising women for being human beings. Having sex in no way makes you a slut!

I want them to comprehend that masturbation is both normal and healthy. I want my daughter and my sons to know and understand that sex between consenting adults is not a shameful act. I want my daughter to know that once she becomes sexually active, she will be the same person, who is evolving into a sexual being and not in any way like a piece of chocolate, nor will she be “used” and unwanted.

Losing one’s virginity does not a slut make.

I’m not silly enough to think that my daughter won’t ever feel the brunt of sexism – but I don’t accept that it’s okay either. I will, I hope, arm her with enough information and self-esteem to weather it when and if she is ever objectified simply for having breasts.

I want my sons to respect themselves and their partners, seeing women as equal humans despite our biological differences. I would like to see sex-education curriculum talking about “rape culture” also, teaching both sexes that rape is never okay and that there is simply no excuse in the known world for it.

As a parent it’s always hard to conceive of our kids having sex, but they are human. It’s going to happen! On my end, I fully intend to discuss with the school about their hellfire approach to porn, and their pronunciation of basic terms like masturbation! Yeesh!!

My kids have a mother writing a blog where I praise sex and who will insist on mentioning the word vagina! So I’ll keep doing what I do – talking to my kids about this stuff even when they roll their eyes and think I’m just an idiot.

In the meantime – save the bloody chocolate for Easter!

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