The inappropriateness of this is mind-blowing.
Anyone opposed to abstinence-only sex education in schools knows that it's a curriculum built on fantasy — namely, the fantasy that if we don't give our kids any information about sex, they won't figure out how to have it. But it may come as a surprise that it's built on something else, too: manipulation.
How, you ask? Take a look.
These are actual worksheets sent home with students taking a sex education course at Copper Hills High School in West Jordan, UT, in 2015. I repeat: These are REAL.
Let's take a closer look at them, shall we? Here are some actual things from these worksheets:
- I refuse to feel the emotional harm that comes from premarital sex: guilt, disappointment, worry, rejection.
- I refuse to enter marriage with unnecessary baggage from past relationships.
- I refuse to put my ability to have children at risk.
- I refuse to jeopardize my future relationship with my spouse.
- I refuse to loose (sic) control of my life, my future goals, or my dreams.
- I refuse to disappoint my parents.
Digest that for a minute. These worksheets aren't just furthering the notion that the only safe sex is no sex; they're flat-out telling our kids that sex is likely to ruin their lives.
Threatening the loss of parental approval, future love, future children, and accomplishing goals and dreams is pretty damn intense — and pretty damn disgusting.
Who needs to provide kids with appropriate, factual information and perspective when you can just use emotional blackmail to get them to do what you want?
"But wait," you may say, "some of these are real risks of having sex. They're not wrong." Yes, they are.
No matter what morsel of truth may be buried within them, scare tactics and shaming are always wrong. Always. Always. Always.
Shame tells kids they're bad for doing something very normal and it prevents them from making smart, healthy choices such as buying and using condoms, getting on birth control, or getting tested (and treated) for sexually transmitted infections.
Shame keeps them from talking to someone they trust about big decisions like having sex and being able to discuss any unexpected feelings they may have as a result of doing so.
Shame prevents partner-to-partner conversations about consent, boundaries, protection, and emotions.
Look, some of these statements contain morsels of truth but they're wrapped up in so much manipulative language that the important part of the message gets lost.
Can an STI potentially cause infertility? Yes, absolutely yes.
So shouldn't we be doing everything in our power to make sure our teenagers know it's a real risk that shouldn't be dismissed as an agenda-driven scare tactic?
Shouldn't we ensure that that they know how to not only prevent contracting one, but recognize the symptoms and get treatment? Doesn't that seem like a better game plan than trying to terrify them into compliance?
Shouldn't we be talking to them about how to avoid having their dreams derailed by using birth control, getting Plan B, or understanding all their options should they have an unplanned pregnancy?
Rather than telling them they can jeopardize a relationship with their future spouse, shouldn't we tell them that what they do with their body is their choice, and that any future partner who'd devalue them for those choices isn't a partner worth having?
Aren't those the better conversations to be having?
Even some of the points on the worksheet that seem OK on the surface are full of awful once you look a little closer. Statements about not using someone else or being used for physical needs are great — except that here, it equates any and all sex as a case of using or being used.
That belief will become hard to shake down the road. The part about not violating someone else's boundaries is great, and almost approaches teaching the idea of consent. But shouldn't the students then be encouraged to figure out their own boundaries instead of having their boundaries dictated to them?
We wouldn't allow a date, whose only goal is sex, to be in charge of telling our kids when they should say yes. So why do we allow a teacher, whose only goal is the eradication of premarital sex, to be in charge of telling our kids when to say no?
After all, consent is about both of those things, and nobody should be taking that power away from them.
The second sheet that was sent home with these students was a contract. For homework, they were expected to sign a pledge not to have premarital sex. Again, this is at a public high school, not an evangelical Christian purity ball.
The inappropriateness of this is mind-blowing. Since when is it acceptable for an adult in a position of authority to make inquiries into a teenager's sexual choices?
When did it become OK for them to impose their morality on our kids and ask them to abide by it? We wouldn't tolerate a Mormon teacher compelling a kid to sign a contract to swear off coffee, a Jewish teacher requiring kids to sign one to keep kosher, or a Muslim teacher asking kids to sign one promising to cover their heads. So why is this okay?
And what about the kids who have already had sex, as some undoubtedly have? How does this "education" serve them?
How do heaping helpings of shame and guilt and fear help them? They don't.
Because the fact of the matter is, these programs aren’t intended to educate; they're intended to control, and they shouldn't be a part of our education system, period.