Sex for Life and other lessons in leadership...
TV, billboards, posters around the city… Everything is saturated in sex. What's a 9 year old to do?
Last week, looped into helping with my daughter’s Grade 3 field trip, I spent a solid hour on the TTC with twenty 8 and 9 year olds … Eye-opening to say the least.
Somewhere on the Yonge line, one boy loudly blurts out: “SEX FOR LIFE”, and much giggling ensues. Following his gaze leads me to that all-too-familiar subway ad. Aha. The boy then proceeds to read out the entire ad.
Erectile dysfunction, anyone?
Much more giggling, whispers of "what does that mean" and then more whispers, leave me wondering how one 9-year old explains erectile dysfunction to another 9-year old?
I’m agog that the Premier has backed-off updating sexual education programs in schools. Aside from the unending ridicule he will face over his flip-flopping, lily-livered lack of leadership, it’s a move in the wrong direction.
Speak to anyone working in sexual health or public health and they will tell you that many children are simply not being taught these things at home. They are learning it from similarly misinformed friends, TV, movies and the Internet. And what they are learning is not always positive or healthy.
Meanwhile, Toronto Public Health assigns sexual health educators to work with schools, but I gather they are assigned to 10-20 schools each, in addition to their other responsibilities.
So, with such a lack of leadership on the provincial front, if we are going to rely on parents to actually feel comfortable enough to speak with their children about sexuality, I guess we also have to work on that parent comfort-zone. Our City is as good a place to start as any.
To that end, let’s look again at what our own city is doing right. Toronto Public Health has a program underway called “Raising Sexually Healthy Children Peer Parent Leadership Training.”
To date, 106 parents from seven cultural communities have graduated from the program and themselves have become Parent Mentors in their community. Some of these Parent Mentors are now running their own workshops within their communities, answering questions that are often considered taboo, and helping to develop language and culturally specific sexual health resources for use in those communities.
So, how do we get parents to embrace and support sexual education in schools, and demand as much from government? Well, I suppose we need to educate the parents. Teaching sexual education in schools does not remove parental responsibility for sexual education.
We need to help clear up the confusing messages are kids are getting (those whispers on the subway) and use that as an opportunity to share our own family and cultural values with them. And while we bulk up on the courage-front and learn about leadership, we can show Dalton McGuinty how it’s done.