Here is the piece I performed for BedPost Confessions last month on sex education in Texas and how we can all go a little rogue.
I was minding my own business, just sitting in a coffee shop having a wonderful latte waiting for my darling 13 year old son to finish his improv class, when I looked at Facebook.
There, in a link, was an article from Think Progress, with this title:
Abstinence Only Course in Teas tells kids that having sex makes them like a chewed up piece of gum.
I had to read that twice to settle into the reality that it was an actual article and not a joke. Which, being Texas and the ongoing purity culture wars, it obviously wasn’t.
I decided to click on the link, and found this quote.
According to Think Progress, “Starting in middle school, students attending the Canyon Independent School District are instructed they should remain a virgin until they get married.
And the teachers that work in those Texas schools are instructed to drive this point home by telling kids that they don’t want to be like a used toothbrush or chewed-up piece of gum.”
As I read through the article, it became clear that a parent in Canyon had heard from her child about this curriculum (because the school didn’t send any of it home to parents) and had gone in and read over what they were teaching her child.
She, an obvious spitfire and candidate for my version of mother of the year, took a photo of the offending text.
So, according to Texas Sex Ed, you should remain virgins until married but then if you do it, at all prior to that, you are a chewed up piece of gum.
Now, I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t look anything like sex to me. They also compared non virgins to old nasty tooth brushes no one would want to use.
I think (if I can interpret this next slide clearly enough) that those pretty and clean toothbrushes in the back are straight, virginal and monogamous. Unused and pure, unlike that promiscuous SINGLE and unwanted toothbrush in the foreground.
Or something like that. All I’ve ever used my toothbrush for is oral hygiene and I have never thought much about sex when I brush (other than perhaps my breath will be minty fresh).
That toothbrush is not a person, I hate to tell you. That toothbrush is a piece of plastic. Do you think the people writing up that curriculum understand that? That people aren’t toothbrushes?
I mean, if we are used up after sexual relations, what’s a thrice married father of 5? An glass of sour and curdled milk left out to spoil?
That grandmother who is enjoying dating in her 70’s? Is she like a moldy old piece of bread?
What’s a survivor of sexual violence? What might they be?
Please. We are none of those things. We are human beings.
So, at this point, my latte is cold and congealing in my cup, and my fingers are frenzidly typing out some kind of obligatory political rant-post in my Facebook, when my darling son comes down the stairs from his class and says, “Oh no, mom, why do you have that face?” He already knows that “mom is on the internet getting outraged” look.
And I looked at him and I said, “Because there are people in this state who think you should teach kids abstinence only by telling kids if they have sex, they are no better than chewed up gum or used up toothbrushes.
And he looked at me and he said, “Chewed up gum? Used toothbrushes? Shouldn’t those people be fired??”
Which, if you think about, is a very good question.
It was at this point we had a mother son talk about sex, sex ed, what he’d been told in school (mostly DON’T DO IT), and how he already had heard that girls weren’t supposed to do it, but he kept hearing that boys were supposed to have sex in order to be cool and how that was, in his words, hypocritical and plus the math didn’t work out on that particular equation.
We said all the words (lots of words, so many words, words that whoaaaa!) that scare the pants off of most of us parents including the words YOU CAN ALWAYS TALK TO US ABOUT THINGS AND THERE ARE BOOKS ON THAT SHELF YOU CAN READ.
At which point he wisely said, “I think more parents should talk to their kids since they really aren’t getting adequate info. Most of my friends’ parents don’t talk to them. I think they should.”
And life went on and no one died from having yet another version of “the talk.” That’s what feels so important to me you all because….look…Who out there has kids, knows kids they like, was a kid needing information and support as you grew up?
Right, that pretty much covers all of us.
There are 1028 school districts in Texas and HALF of them don’t teach sex ed at all! the rest mostly only teach Abstinence Only, with a few exceptions for abstinence plus.
That’s a whole lot of kids not getting even the basics on how to take care of themselves.
Meanwhile, there are politicians and groups fighting hard against letting any accurate information in text books and getting in the way of teachers who want to teach and during all this time, kids are being told they are chewed up and unworthy, and it just feels like the damn wild wild west.
This is real stuff-STDs, rape culture, slut shaming and victim blaming, gender dynamics causing boys and girls harm, teen pregnancy. The less access to education and resources kids have the more problems we’ll have. The less resources young folks have around how to love, learn, consent, respect? The harder things will be for them as adults.
Look, I KNOW deep in my heart that every parent is going to have some differing opinions on how this all works. How their kids should learn or not, about sex, should it be in the schools or at home or both, I understand how fearful parents can be. Even me having to handle my children’s questions is daunting!
I mean come on! It’s terrifying and I’ve got some basic training, but even this week he was asking me ALL kinds of questions. Like, I can’t believe the things we are discussing. And he has every right to get those questions answered honestly and with respect and compassion.
Still, no matter your politics and beliefs, I can’t imagine anyone wants their child, or a kid they know, to feel like a used up piece of gum? A nasty toothbrush? For having normal wonderful sexually developmentally appropriate feelings? For loving a partner? That’s just hard to comprehend, how people might let that happen.
It’s just heartbreaking to think that kids are growing up with that much shame, when as we know, all of us here, sex is gorgeous and beautiful and amazing. And powerful. And yeah, sometimes scary, but don’t we owe it to them to be honest about all of it? I think, me personally anyway, that our kids deserve our honesty at the very, very least.
So, I decided to go rogue.
I thought, Bedposts is the kind of place that adults head to for learning how to talk to each other about sex and gender, maybe they’d want to help support the next generation? Since I’m not an actual sex educator I thought, “Who out there could lead us all? Who out there has the badassery required, the skills available and the kickbuttedness in her SOUL to help all us civilians to make a difference for the teens of this state?”
Of course I thought of Ebony Stewart, poet, artist, genius. She went ahead and wrote this wonderful pledge for anyone who might want to join in and stand up for the youth of Texas. She joined me on stage and lead us in this (completely non-binding yet highly symbolic) vow.
Quoth the poetic Ebony Stewart:
“My name is Ebony Stewart aka The Gully Princess aka “I’ll eat cho cupcake.”
And as a Sex-Ed teacher in this he’er great state of Texas I believe it takes a village to raise our adolescents.
I’m here to DEPUTIZE YOU!
On this day November 21st and every day forward before my friends, strangers, bartenders, BedPost Confessions, a sex-ed teacher, and all the gods we serve…
I will, if asked and in the most consensual and ethical manner with good boundaries and only if I feel safe in doing so, teach adolescents how to affirm and respect themselves as sexual persons (including their bodies, sexual orientation, feelings and to respect the sexuality of others).
I will increase comfort and skills for discussing and negotiating sexuality issues with peers, romantic partners, and people of other generations.
I will stay current in all the latest music, relationships and sex scandals (such as KimYe because Brangelina is not relevant anymore).
THINGS HAVE CHANGED since “back in my day.”
I will not use the phrase “back in my day” anymore!
I will explore, develop, and articulate values, attitudes, and feelings about my sexuality, their sexuality and the sexuality of others.
I will reject double standards, stereotypes, biases, exploitation, dishonesty and harassment.
I will acquire knowledge and skills for developing and maintaining romantic or sexual relationships that are consensual, mutually pleasurable, safe, and based on respect, mutual expectations, and caring.
I will be honest in talking to adolescents about sex.
I will actually use the word sex.
I will also use the words vulva, clitoris, penis, arousal, erection, and ejaculation.
Instead of whoowhoo, peepee, whoHA, Jimmy, nut, bang, blowpop, or pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey when talking to adolescents about sex.
We DECRY the act of shaming.
Sex is not bad.
If sex was a bad thing none of us would be here.
If I don’t know, I will say I DON’T KNOW!
I will find a way to get the best and most accurate answer by contacting Ebony or any of the BedPost Confessions team and we will Google the answer TO-GETHER!
I, Ebony will always be available to help parents and adults learn how to talk about all this!!!
The body is a good thing.
I am a good thing.
I am worthy of good things.
And so too, then are the teens of this great state.
So say you AYE??”
And then everyone in the audience was deputized, if only unofficially, to be awesome and it was good.
Because I am an ethical mother, I told my son what I was planning on talking about at the show. I didn’t give away his questions or things he wanted kept private, but I did read him Ebony’s pledge. You know what he said to me? “That’s really really cool, mom.”
And it is cool, that in a state filled with people trying to keep information away from curious, intelligent, maturing teens, there are some grown-ups who want to do the right thing.
I’ll be doing that right thing, and I hope you will too. Let me know if you need any help, cause I know a Sheriff in town.