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Ontario's new sexual health curriculum is going to help us dismantle rape culture

May is Sexual Assault Awareness & Prevention Month in Ontario. This year, it also appears to be the "Let's let dinosaurs dictate public health policy" month.

I've already written about the greatness that is the new Ontario Sexual Violence Action Plan. 

But the one piece that is ruffling the most amount of feathers is the revamping of the sexual health curriculum. 

It's bringing out the loser in so many families, with people actually preferring that their children get no education at all than risk learning about comprehensive sexual health. 

I wish I was kidding.

But nope, old school asshats with protest signs The Onion couldn't make up if they tried, believe they are best equipped to decide public health policies in this province.

This is the basic translation of everyone protesting against the new curriculum. 

Before you have thoughts and feelings about the damn thing, try reading it first. You can read the Grade 1-8 curriculum here or the 9-12 curriculum here.  

Are you the kind of person that sees a PDF and thinks "Ugh. READING IS FOR CHUMPS." Well, you're in a for a treat. The wonderful Nadine Thornhill actually filmed herself reading all the juicy bits. You can watch it here

I'm a big supporter of comprehensive sex ed for a whole host of reasons. But what I want to focus on here is how comprehensive sex education intersects with my work to end sexual violence.

I am deeply invested in this new comprehensive sex education because I want to dismantle rape culture and I think this new curriculum will help us do that. 

1- Frank, age appropriate conversations about body parts and sexuality help combat shame: 

Shame about one's body and sexuality is super, duper harmful. When we teach kids the appropriate name for their body parts, the concept of bodily autonomy and good touch vs. bad touch, we are helping them claim ownership of their body. 

When a kid feels like they are entitled to their body; that it is theirs alone; that it is deserving of love and respect; they are more likely to report any sexual abuse they might be experiencing. 

If a kid can't properly name their body parts or doesn't think that their body is something they have ownership of, THAT is what makes them vulnerable.

If we raise kids to think that sex of any kind (including masturbation) is shameful, they are internalizing the message that THEY are shameful if they are having sex, including sexual assault.

Perpetrators benefit from the shame we create around sexuality. They know victims/survivors are going to feel shame about what happened and that shame means they probably won't get caught because who is going to tell? 

The shame we instill in children follows them their whole lives. It's why we see campuses as a hunting ground for sexual violence. Think about it.

You've given youth a shit ton of baggage around their sex lives and now they're surrounded by booze and drugs. Alcohol-facilitated sexual assault exists because we live in a culture in which people can't communicate their sexual needs unless they're intoxicated. 

And that's assuming you're a straight person looking to hook-up with another straight person. Imagine if you're queer, trans or questioning your gender or sexuality? It's a fucking mess, guys.

A mess that we continue to perpetuate under the guise of "protecting their innocence." (Read this amazing takedown of the "protecting innocence" rhetoric.) 

Conservatives love to preach about their love of the children but are apparently totes fine with childhood sexual abuse. Smooth move, losers. 

2- "Consent" is a core concept that we must ALL know:

I'm a public educator that goes into schools, workplaces, campuses, you name it and talks to people about sexual violence, healthy relationships and bystander intervention. Trust me when I say people have no fucking idea what "consent" is. 

Teaching consent to children in the 2nd grade is revolutionary stuff. I can't tell you how happy this makes me.

Far too many people believe that there's no such thing as being "too drunk" to have sex. If I had a nickel for every time I hear "Chicks who drink too much are asking for trouble", I'd a called in rich to work years ago. 

 Image via Draw-the-line.ca 

Far too many people believe that being in a relationship means consent doesn't apply to you. And I mean, hey. It's only been illegal to rape your wife in Canada since the 80s! 

 Image via Draw-the-line.ca

 

Contrary to what the Jesus-freaks and sex-ed-haters believe, consent is not just about teaching our youth to frolic through the fields, boning everything in sight. Consent involves your right to say "no" to the sex you don't want and "yes" to the sex you want. 

This new curriculum is teaching your kid that regardless of what their peers tell them, their abusive boyfriend tells them or the sex-crazed media shows them, they have the right to say no to sex. It doesn't mean you're stuck up OR that you're better than anyone else. It means you're making the right choice for you. 

Comprehensive sexual education has been proven to delay when teens first have sex. 

Actually, Phoebe. It's not. We've known for a long-ass-time that comprehensive sexual education doesn't lead to horny teenagers fucking the day away. It means that youth are able to make informed choices about their bodies. Ain't nothing but good can come from that.

3- Lots of parents are really, really terrible at this stuff:

I talk to A LOT of youth and parents in my job. A ton. And as much as I want to believe all those parents saying "The school shouldn't be doing that. I'm having 'the talk' with my kids", TRUST ME when I say they either aren't OR they are doing a piss-poor job at it.

Let's talk about online sexual violence as an example.

Things like "Back in my day, we never did that stuff" or "Why would you send a naked picture of yourself?! Of course something terrible would happen!" are being told to youth EVERY DAY by their parents. I know this because I have the same conversations with youth that I do with their parents and I hear it from both sides. Youth feel incredibly judged and silenced by their parents who don't understand the world they live in. Meanwhile, parents are AT BEST judging out of fear for their children or AT WORST actively stopping their children from ever asking for help.

And that's just one scenario out of thousands. 

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Ask anyone who has been out of school for a while. They'll tell you they barely use any of the information they were forced to cram back in their K-12 days. What they wish they had learned was how to balance their finances, how to deal with their parents getting cancer and how to have healthy relationships.

Yes, let's teach our kids how to read, write, identify different plants and the history of WWII. Let's teach kids how to play soccer, read a monologue and bake a cake. But let's also teach our kids to be well rounded individuals with healthy, fulfilling sex lives, healthy relationships and healthy self-images. Let's teach them to honour their bodies, treasure their families (whatever they might look like) and to recognize the humanity in each and every once of us.

In doing so, you'll hopefully work me out of a job and goddamn, that would be nice. 

The new sexual health curriculum is coming and I, for one, can't wait. Those who are opposed stand on the wrong side of history and are gonna realize that real quick. I don't want to fight about it anymore, k?