A recent NYCLU report on sex education in New York’s schools has shown that even the so-called comprehensive sex education which students get in schools is far from anything remotely resembling what I would consider actual sex education.
For instance, a fifth of schools did not mention in their sex education classes that sex was pleasurable. Yes, really. I’m not sure how you manage to talk about sex without mentioning that it’s fun. Little more than half of schools even mentioned the existence of the clitoris, which is a major center of sexual pleasure for most people with vaginas, and of those that did not all defined or diagrammed it. There’s misinformation about STIs, a complete neglect of the existence of queer people, definitions of the vagina as where the “penis fits”… Really, read the whole paper, it’s tragic and I’d refuse to believe it except I totally had ‘comprehensive’ sex education that was just that terrible.
However, I want to specifically draw your attention to the gender stereotypes of men perpetrated in the sex education curricula.
For instance, 17% of districts used material with a strong bias against teen fathers, such as depicting them as deadbeats that would inevitably abandon their children. Most schools only mentioned teen fathers in the context of financially providing for children (i.e., in terms of child support). Only one school recognized that teen fathers have any role in their children’s lives beyond the financial. That’s right, one school realized that teen fathers might want to provide emotional support to the mother of their children, spend time with their children, and make employment and school decisions that will allow them to prioritize their children. I mean. It’s almost as if there are teen fathers who aren’t terrible people.
Lessons about sexual assault regularly erased male survivors by defining rape as “coerced vaginal penetration,” only teaching girls about sexual assault, using female gender pronouns to reference victims and male gender pronouns to reference predators, and explaining how to avoid rape only to girls and how to not rape people only to boys. (The concept of “how to avoid rape” is crappy enough already, but okay.) Similarly, many districts said boys couldn’t control themselves and that if girls wore skimpy clothing then the boys’ penises would COMPEL them to rape women, which is a sexist stereotype of men (and not hella good for women either).
In addition, 24% of districts used material that directly enforced gender stereotypes. Admittedly, some of the gender role enforcement was fairly subtle, such as depicting a man as a football player and a woman as a cheerleader. However, many of the gender stereotypes of men portrayed were hilariously obvious. For instance, a diagram of “the male brain” that shows that men like sex, ball sports, sex, dangerous pursuits, sex, TV, and sex, and dislike communication and anything remotely domestic. Yes, really. That is definitely what I want my hypothetical offspring to be taught about half the human race.
Boys and men are depicted as being obsessed with sex, visually stimulated, and completely uninterested in romantic relationships. Men, you see, are like microwaves, get turned on as soon as they see a hot naked lady (as opposed to women, who are, the textbooks assure us, all demisexual). They will cruelly lead women on and deceive them into believing that they’re in a romantic relationship, but abandon them as soon as they get what they want. Bad boyfriends try to control you or refuse to commit; however, boys are never clingy or enabling of self-destructive behavior, because those are girl things. Men want to “conquer and dominate” and “see women as trophies.”
(As always, I’d like to take a moment to direct people interested in learning more about sex to Scarleteen, one of the largest and most awesome sex education sites I’ve personally had the pleasure of reading. A donation to Scarleteen is one of the best ways to promote free and truly comprehensive sex ed! </PSA>)