Sunday, April 19, 2015

Things we didn't have in 1999.


I stumbled across a piece from Mclean's magazine, Here’s the craziest fact about Ontario’s sex-ed curriculum. I'll save time. As of February 2015, when the updated curriculum was revealed, the 1998 version in the oldest in the countryThe 1998 curriculum actually didn't roll out until 1999. 

But here's why this article is really interesting -- to me, anyway:
Here’s a short list of things we didn’t have in 1999: We didn’t have YouTube, or even the first iPod, much less Facebook and Twitter and other future boxes like that... You couldn’t tap credit cards to make payments; heck, you couldn’t tap anything on your cellphone, other than tapping out a text message—and, if you were lucky, you had the predictive functions of T9 texting, so that you didn’t have to just press the 5 button three times just to type the letter L. USB flash drives didn’t exist... Never mind the fact that Snapchat and other social media wasn’t around, as Sandals noted—computers as we understand them to work today didn’t exist.
And those changes are very much on my mind when I think of the updates to the Ontario curriculum. One thing that hasn't changed very much since 1998, or since my day, is that kids are curious about sex, and they share information, or misinformation, as they come by it. Heading into puberty, the quest for data ramps up. They will try to educate themselves with or without the help of teachers and parents.

As a kid, I recall the Little Johnny Jokes being passed around the school yard, and laughing at them whether we understood them or not. We were in the throes of the sexual revolution, and publications like Playboy had become somewhat mainstream. In those days, "men's magazines" were in full view at the checkout stand of grocery and convenience stores. Toronto's Yonge Street was outdoor mall of sexuality -- body rub parlours, photo parlours, adult movie theatres, peep shows, and strip clubs.

I should add, we were also in the throes of Feminism and the view that we were living in a culture that objectified women -- and that would have made a helluva good topic in the sexual health classes I never had in middle school or high school. 

And then came infamous The Baby Blue Movie on Toronto's independent CityTV. Each Friday night at midnight, the station would run an adult film of the soft-core variety -- partial frontal nudity, no depictions of penetration, simulated acts, lots of groaning and cheesy music. I didn't know a fellow student in middle school and high school who hadn't seen one -- either covertly or with the full knowledge of their parents. 

But let's talk about today. From the blog PsychCentral, Robert Weiss shares these US-based stats:

  • 12 percent of all Internet websites are pornographic.
  • 25 percent of all online search engine requests are related to sex. That’s about 68 million requests per day.
  • 35 percent of all Internet downloads are pornographic.
  • 40 million Americans are regular visitors (in their own estimation) to porn sites.
  • 70 percent of men aged 18 to 24 visit a porn site at least once per month.
  • The average age of first exposure to Internet porn is 11.
  • The largest consumer group of Internet porn is men aged 35 to 49.
  • One-third of all Internet porn users are female.
  • The most popular day of the week for watching porn is Sunday.
  • The most popular day of the year for watching porn is Thanksgiving.
After YouTube entered the picture, providers of adult entertainment quickly mimicked the user-friendly live streaming and sharing technology  making way for tube sites that provided live streaming of adult videos -- ranging from clips to entire movies.

All of it categorized for easy searching. 

In the nineties, remember, users had wait for several minutes to download a clip that might only run for a couple minutes. By the late 2000s, the wait time was eliminated. In just the last few years, that same content has become readily viewable on smart phones and devices with wifi access or a data plan.

The content is out there. In terms of what sex acts look like, the cat is out of the bag. This is the basis for my response to critics who say, for instance, that in grade seven, children will learn about anal and oral sex: 
P. 195 - C1.3 explain the importance of having a shared understanding with a partner about the following: delaying sexual activity until they are older (e.g., choosing to abstain from any genital contact; choosing to abstain from having vaginal or anal intercourse; choosing to abstain from having oral-genital contact); the reasons for not engaging in sexual activity; the concept of consent and how consent is communicated; and, in general, the need to communicate clearly with each other when making decisions about sexual activity in the relationship.
I contend that by grade seven, they've already heard of anal and oral sex (I had, and that was over forty years ago), and more than likely, they've seen it depicted. Am I defending minors looking at adult material? No, I'm acknowledging that it's taking place. Parents can and should take steps to monitor what their children view; use filtering devices; lock down content on the computer and TV provider's services; and teach children what they consider acceptable at home. At the end of the day, a handful of middle schoolers can disseminate a racy video at recess faster than a teenage boy of my generation could pass around a girly mag.

And so, to say that teachers are going to 'teach' or 'teach about' oral sex or anal sex -- that's really a misstatement. The correct word would be that teachers will be "contextualizing" all of this information in a safe and informed setting. None of that precludes parents also reviewing that content with their children in their own religious and cultural context. And if that's not satisfactory to parents, then they certainly should avail themselves of the opt out.

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