Our class discussion today covered a lot of (versatile, important) ground, but one of the things that has absolutely cemented itself in my head for the day was our discussion of Esch’s “sexual exploration,” and more importantly, of her sexual agency – whether/to what degree she has any. From this point, we moved on to the very flawed dynamics that the American education system has with sex ed, and the fact that a lot of people/institutions believe that sex education is something exclusively for the parents/guardians/family to teach and talk about. Obviously, this is flawed (as many people pointed out today), because some people don’t have a home that they return to, or if they do, will have parents who are equally uncomfortable talking about these things as they are with the matter being taught in children’s schools.
All of this is a very long-winded setup to say that this discussion made me think of an article I read about a year ago from a website called The Good Men Project (super humble title, I know), titled “The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21.” (Available here: http://goodmenproject.com/families/the-healthy-sex-talk-teaching-kids-consent-ages-1-21/ )
Though it may not be perfect, this particular piece offers a lot of easy, awkwardness-diffusing advice so that kids grow up learning to be comfortable with discussions of sex – and especially with talking about consent; it stresses the importance of teaching and respecting a child when they say “no”, so that the child can understand the power and weight of that word, and can feel comfortable using it. (Unlike Esch, who found losing her virginity easy than saying//explaining “no”.) Of course, this article frames a kind of idyllic family situation as well – it assumes there are concerned guardians, listening children, etc. But I think a lot of its points are useful, and though they are presented as parenting tips, it seems to me they could be incorporated in some teaching practices for the marked ages – especially the frank discussion and strict adherence to the words ‘no’ and ‘stop’. Again, it is not a perfect formula, but it made me think of entry points into a very difficult and important conversation, and about how these talking points can be incorporated and reinforced over time. As I work at an childcare center during the summer, I found the “for very young children” section particularly helpful and thought-provoking; that kids can be taught and learn, at such a young age, the power of certain words and actions, is incredible to me – both because children are ridiculously smart and intuitive, and because it’s appalling that our education systems fail to incorporate these kinds of lessons early, often, or at all.