Sun | Jul 21, 2019

Letter of the Day | Sex education in schools: There is a gap

Published:Friday | June 7, 2019 | 12:31 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

I had reason this past week to lead a session with grade-eight girls at a high school in Kingston to do with sexuality, tolerance and respect. The girls were between 13 and 14 years of age. Before I started, I asked how many in the group had been given a talk on ‘the facts of life’ from a parent. Less than half the room put up their hands. Please keep this in mind as I go on to share a little of what emerged out of the session.

The young ladies were eager to engage and asked many pointed questions. If I were to summarise the questions by theme, I’d say two dominant themes emerged. The first theme to emerge was around ‘permissible’ physical acts that technically are not actual sexual intercourse: petting, French kissing, etc. I don’t think this is new. Young people are developing and feeling very real and compelling emotions and desires as their hormones and bodies change. I suspect that they are already experimenting, and I truly believe that they are looking for boundaries.

The second theme to emerge was around the practice of anal sex, including legal aspects and if this is ‘really sex’. Remember, now, that this was an all-female group. Where is the fascination with anal sex coming from with these girls? I suspect – and I stand to be corrected – that they are exposed to contemporary porn, either directly or indirectly. They’re likely already experimenting, too.

I do not know the details of the personal development curricula in our schools today. But judging from the questions I received and the fact that less than half of our students are receiving guidance from at least one parent, I’d say that it is time for schools to pick up the slack and provide guidance on matters to do with sex to our children. We cannot afford to bury our heads in the sand with disclaimers of “not my child”. Perhaps not your child, but your child exists as part of a wider universe with children who may not have been provided guidance and boundaries.

Wringing hands and mourning “the advanced level of the current generation” is a waste of time. This is the information age, and porn is easily accessible, as is other information which may not be along the lines that you would rather your child be exposed to at this time.

PUTTING THEM IN DANGER

I believe we need to continue to emphasise the timeless messages of self-esteem, the importance of focusing on schoolwork and the value of creating a personal vision for the future with our children. But to do so to the exclusion of creating an environment free of judgement where they can ask questions, where we demystify sex and related issues and where they can get guidance on personal safety and sexual development is foolish. It is dishonest, and it is setting our children up for unnecessary heartache and putting them in danger.

Ideally, these issues should be handled in the home, by parents. But it isn’t happening. Do we not see what is happening on public transportation with this ‘lapping’ practice? Do we not hear the lyrics of the popular contemporary songs that our children are listening to? Are we not aware of the types of videos and messages that circulate among our children at lightning speed on their smartphones?

We are the ones who need to provide guidance, love, information and boundaries for our children. The future of Jamaica is in their hands. Let that sink in.

KELLY MCINTOSH

kkmac218@gmail.com