In terms of sexual education, Brookline students are incredibly fortunate. We receive sexual education with accurate scientific information from fifth through ninth grade. We are taught about gender identity, sexuality, contraception and sexually transmitted infections with more than merely an abstinence-only viewpoint.
However, ending sex education in ninth grade leaves gaps in many students’ understanding of sex. Older students should have the option of taking supplemental classes, lectures or electives that teach them more than the mechanics of sex and protection, allowing them to explore the concept of sexual fulfillment, understand consent and readiness and learn about pleasure that is not at the expense of safety.
In addition to safety, schools should teach students about pleasure. Although many people are already aware that most sexual behavior happens for the purpose of achieving sexual pleasure, health teachers do not have the opportunity to discuss that enjoyment can be derived from sex.
Sex is not a clean-cut diagram projected on the board.
It is messy and uncertain, and when someone ends up in bed they are not going to pull out a labeled worksheet. They need to be equipped with the tools that allow them to make safe and comfortable decisions in the moment.
No one should feel ashamed of feeling or not feeling sexual arousal, so young people should be taught how to safely interact with their bodies, whether it is by themselves or with a partner.
Sex is not an exclusive construct, yet health classes do not actively include or inform all members of the community. Heterosexual students are given a diagram, but LGBTQIA+ students grappling with the same types of confusion and desire do not have access to this type of education. How can two male-bodied or female-bodied people have sex? What kinds of protection do they need that people having vaginal sex might not? It is okay to explore your body with people of all genders regardless of your sexual orientation or preference, but not everyone is told this, much less told how to make it both safe and pleasurable.
The Brookline Public Schools promise to both respect “human differences” and “educational equity,” ensuring that all students receive just “educational opportunities.” If LGBTQIA+ students are not receiving relevant sex education, can sex education truly be an equal educational opportunity for all students at the high school?
According to a 2011 article by The New York Times called “Teaching Good Sex,” classes like this exist. The Friends’ Central School, a private Quaker school in Philadelphia, has an elective for seniors called “Sexuality and Society,” taught by Al Vernacchio. The class covers topics such as sex ethics, gender relations, pleasure and intimacy and love.
Brookline High School is a liberal, academically rigorous school like Friends’ Central School. If they can teach a comprehensive sex education class, so can we.
Sex is much more complicated than just a man and a woman in bed. Just as students get both the hard facts and a more detailed analysis of history, literature and scientific concepts in our academic classes, we should be given a chance to learn about sex the same way.