Most of us aren't trying to make a baby when we have sex. Most sex is for pleasure. So why do sex education programs leave pleasure out? Alice Dreger writing at Pacific Standard:
The note that came home about sex ed seemed to have a tone of shame to it, too: “According to state law, you have the right to review the materials and curriculum content to be used in HIV/AIDS and other serious communicable disease prevention education, as well as sex education.” The mate and I agreed the reference to HIV/AIDS must be code to tell us they’d be talking about homosexuality. What a way to code for our gay friends.
I found myself hoping the gym teacher wasn’t going to teach in code. Children spent so much of their energy learning not just the native language of their parents, but their coded language, too. I remember when the movie Juno was out, and a sudden rash of curiosity broke out among my son’s class about what “accidentally pregnant” meant.
I realized why my son was confused. He was thinking “accidentally getting pregnant” was like accidentally burning yourself because you didn’t realize the stove was on. “Sweetie,” I explained, “most of the time that people have sex, they’re not having it to have a baby. They’re having it because it feels good. So you can get accidentally pregnant if you’re having sex for pleasure and you don’t use effective birth control.”
He looked shocked. Apparently I had forgotten to mention that sex was not just for making babies.
There's a chapter in American Savage, which comes out in paperback next week, about how lousy sex education is in America. I point out that we don't teach about pleasure in our sex ed programs—which run the gamut from dangerous (abstinence-only) to pathetic ("comprehensive" sex ed programs that leave out pleasure, gay sex, and obtaining consent, a.k.a. "talking people into having sex with you"). But talking about sexual pleasure with kids is easier said than done. Even I left it out when I explained sex to my son. That omission lead to a pretty funny confrontation...
One day my then-eight-year-old son came into the kitchen and jumped up on the counter. He narrowed his eyes and gave me a strange look.
"Two men can't make a baby," D.J. finally said.
That's true, I told him, two men can't make a baby.
"Then you and daddy have sex for no reason," he said.
Most of the sex that goes on out there—gay sex, straight sex, solo sex—is for "no reason," or more accurately for a very good reason—for pleasure. And yet most parents, myself included, leave pleasure out of "the talk." And if a sex-advice columnist who believes that pleasure needs to be incorporated into sex education leaves pleasure out, can you blame sex educators for ducking the issue?