Friday, May 13, 2011

Sex Ed, Part 2

Sorry this is coming so late in the day. Blogger's been offline since last night, and it's only now (noontime Friday) that I'm able to get access back and post. 

On Wednesday I posed this question: if you were talking sex ed for 5th graders at a Catholic school, what would you do? What would you want emphasized, and what would you want less of?

When I read my friend’s wall post, what really struck me was that his son wanted to giggle about the whole thing.   Probably because he’s a little uncomfortable with the topic of his body. Which heck, is not that different from a lot of adults, really.  

But if we don’t want to turn that discomfort into shame, I wonder if a good starting point is to trust the children’s instincts and encourage a sense of humor. Our bodies, how crazy is that! Get them to laugh, as they clearly want to, about the weird eccentricities of their own bodies, the lumps, the extrusions or intrusions that are unique to them.  And then it’s in the context of that amusement and wonder we can begin to talk about what the body does – the way that men and women’s sexual organs work, and under what circumstances they should be used. 

I think if you proceed out of that sense of humor, then you approach the topic of sexuality like you would some cool science experiment or adventure in the jungle, something wild and unusual and isn’t this cool and crazy.  You have a different sensibility, a lighter touch. And you implicitly tell the children, any fears or apprehensions they have are okay. They are okay!

The temptation for us as adults who have a little more knowledge of the hazards of our world is to proceed from a point of view of apprehension – basically, we have to give them the do’s and don’ts so they don’t get hurt and/or pregnant.  And such anxiety is a reasonable concern; moreover, we absolutely must offer an understanding of sexuality in the broader context of love and relationship and responsibility. But if we lead with apprehension, they will sense it, and we will risk making sexuality seem to them something they should be afraid of, or something first and foremost about burden and obligation. 

So, I say, lead with humor.  Lead with wonder.  Lead with joy.  It’s where they are – wide-eyed, everything new, eager to explore.  And in that context the things we’re worried about as adults become richer, too – not a finger wagging or hand wringing list of do’s and don’t’s, but an exploration and appreciation of our loving human relationships.  

What do you think?


KenAnselment said...

Naughty bits, indeed, Seamus. Although for the record, I don't think it was Ryan who wanted to giggle so much as his father. The mere fact that I refer to it as "naughty bits" should be the tip off. Thanks, though, for the deft handling of the subject matter. I'm thinking about waiting till you get out here so I can tap you to finish out the little man's schooling.

Jim McDermott, S.J. said...

Oh Lord. Don't do that! :)

Anonymous said...

Hey J

Good post. V funny. Here'smy question- do u remember when your parents had "the talk" with u?

Mine was 5th grade too, I think.

I think I fell over laughing 10 times - "they do what????

Good to hear from u on linkedin. Take care.

Deb Mc - MU