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Ontario’s outdated sex ed curriculum is silencing us on a topic that needs to be discussed

Photo by Tina Wallace

“Can I use a fake name?” or “no.”

These were the responses to my proposition: “You should write for the Fulcrum’s sex supplement.”

Though these replies made me a little disappointed, I tried to put myself in their shoes. Similar to a tattoo, writing about sex seems like it would stick with you forever.  Once it’s been published, it’s out there for the world to see. You’re not going to get a government job or be in a position of the utmost political importance if you have a tattoo across your forehead. It’s the same assumption for writing something a little sexy. You’re not going to hold down an esteemed professional position if articles with the words “penis” and “vagina” surface with your name on them.

Then there’s the distinct possibility that your family will see the article. “What would Granny say if she saw my piece about the art of BDSM?”

I would like to clarify that it’s not the volunteers and staff members declining to write or wanting to use a pseudonym that makes me disappointed. It’s the fact that too many people are afraid to have an open discussion about something that almost every human and their mother does.

The main reason most Canadians are so afraid to write about or openly discuss sex is the type of sexual education taught in most schools throughout the country, and Ontarians have it the worst.

According to an article published in the Toronto Star in December, the Ontario sexual education curriculum hasn’t been updated in 15 years. To me that makes absolutely no sense. Fifteen years ago, kids didn’t have thousands of ways to access porn, or watch Rihanna hog-tied in a video on Much Music during the day. Sex is so prevalent in our culture, but we’re not properly taught how to embrace it, and more importantly, how to talk about it.

In an article published by the CBC in June 2013, it’s cited that nine in 10 parents polled said they were comfortable with their children receiving sexual education in school. But it’s these parents that need to begin sexual education with their kids at home at a young age.

When I learned about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and contraception, I learned about them once, in ninth grade, and we never even grazed topics like sexual orientation, healthy relationships, or talking about sex with our partners. It’s not enough to have a couple days worth of discussion about something so fundamental to human existence and something so complex. It requires years and years of learning, which is why the Ontario government should be implementing comprehensive sex education regimes in every school — Catholic, public, or otherwise.

On its website, Planned Parenthood defines comprehensive sex education as a tool to cover a wide variety of topics that affect sexual health. Teachers don’t just show you how to put a condom on a banana. As early as kindergarten, kids would be taught how to properly communicate about sex, and the ins and outs of anatomy, STIs, and even sexual pleasure. The idea is if kids are exposed to all things sex-related as they mature, sex won’t be a scary, foreign thing once they reach an age when it becomes the norm to participate in intercourse.

The CBC also reported on a comprehensive sex ed plan proposed in 2010 that was thwarted because of backlash from influential religious leaders and other politicians in disagreement. The new curriculum would have started kids learning proper anatomical terminology in first grade and continue to teach different aspects of sex and sexuality each school year through Grade 12.

Since then, there have been no proposed updates to Ontario’s majorly out dated sex ed curriculum. Whatever the reason behind tossing out the 2010 curriculum changes, this debacle proves what the sex ed changes were trying to negate: the fear of discussing a natural part of being human.

If you’re ever approached by anyone — parent, friend, enemy, partner, granny — with questions about sex, think about how much easier life would be if you just outright answered them. “Mum, there is porn in the history of your computer because I was curious.” “Granny, don’t worry. I always use condoms.” “Tori, I would love to write about my first experience masturbating since I know almost everyone in the world has touched themselves before.” When we start to be open and honest with each other about every aspect of the sexual experience, discussing seemingly difficult topics like sexual health and contraception will be as simple as talking about the weather.

That’s the kind of world I want to live in.