Sex and Education (Part 2)

How does a person’s sex or gender identity affect the education they receive?

This topic combines Tolman’s article, “Adolescent girls’ sexuality”, and Pascoe’s article, “Guys are just homophobic”.  Through this combination, we can see the interplay between societal pressures and expectations for both girls and guys.  Also, how this interplay is perceived and responded to by adults.

The main takeaways from Tolman’s article are the ideas of “good”/”bad” girls and being desired as opposed to desiring.  While the main takeaway from Pascoe’s article is guys need to avoid being perceived as homophobic.

To clarify, girls are expected to incite desire and boys are expected to desire them.  To create this desire, girls are supposed to dress and act provocatively, but not too much.They cannot actually like this or gain anything from it.  It must be simply to provide boys an object.  Any deviation will result in a girl being labeled “bad”, and she cannot easily reclaim her “good” label.  Boys have also experience the pressure to perform.  Failure to express desire or objectify a girl can result in the label of being “gay”.

Society says that it is a biological truth that guys cannot control their sexual urges and naturally desire and objectify every girl they see.  Given the responsibility of girls to create this environment, it is the girls who also hold the responsibility for keeping guys in check.  Girls are told that a guy will not be able to learn if cleavage, midriff, shoulders, or thighs are shown.  Guys cannot be held responsible for their educational experience.  How can a guy possibly concentrate on his schoolwork with an attractive female wearing a low-cut top sitting beside him?  Of course, he is going to openly stare and focus all of his attention on her breasts until she is out of sight.

Additionally, guys cannot be held accountable for what comes out of their mouth.  It is simply a part of growing up that boys regularly demean girls and sexually harass them.  To not do this, a boy is presumed gay.  Heaven forbid, a boy actually respects women.  At the same time, the beratement girls face creates a very uncomfortable environment, to say the least.  And yet, this topic is hardly ever discussed.  Boys have a responsibility to help create a respectful learning environment. How can a girl possibly concentrate on her schoolwork with a boy sitting behind her commenting on how nice her breasts are, how much she would love to experience his huge penis, and how he could please her in so many ways (all without her approval or encouragement)?

Taking a different track, boys and girls are told what they can and cannot do in school-related activities.  This is seen in ideas of how children are expected to perform in each subject, what positions they are to hold, what organizations they take part in, and what sports they play.

Currently, adults perpetuate these ideas by accepting, enforcing, and encouraging them.  We cannot expect children to step outside of these scripts without encouragement.  To change these strict gender roles, we have to encourage children to step outside of them.  We have to counter the unjust perceptions with respectful discourses.  Children need to be taught what it means to respect another person.  Some adults need to be taught this as well.  How can we effectively change the school environment to one of respect?  There is the common example of single-sex schools.  However, there are many drawbacks to these and it would be just as unfair, if not more, to take away the possibility of co-ed schools.  Segregation is not the answer.  We have been there and done that.  Separate and unequal, we all know which side of the binary would get the short end of the stick.

Then there are the “other” identities, those who do not fit in our binary system.  What kind of responsibilities do they have?  What responsibilities do others have to them?  How do we combat all of these misconceptions?

Legality of Consent

Is there a such thing as consent in legal terms?  Does it matter to the law?

This plays out differently depending upon which side of the binary you look at:  “normal” or “abnormal”.

During our discussion of BDSM culture, its common use of contracts was mentioned.  These contracts are the process in which the participating parties negotiate consent.  However, they hold no legal merit.  In Darren Langdridge’s article “The time of the sadomasochist”, we learn that in some places BDSM is illegal.  He informs us of “Operation Spanner” in which over a dozen gay men were persecuted for their non-normative and consensual forms of sexual expression.  These men were convicted of assault and received fines or imprisonment.  If I had to guess, I would say that the submissive parties faced fines and the dominant ones faced imprisonment.  Upon conviction, they attempted to appeal their case based on the negotiated consent between parties.  However, the presiding judge decided that “it was the role of the law to draw the line ‘between what is acceptable in a civilized society and what is not'” (373).  I find it odd that people go to jail for practicing consensual BDSM, and yet rapists get off due to the “iffy-ness” of consent.  To clarify, if you give someone permission to whip you, they can go to jail without you pressing charges; however, if you do not give someone permission to have sexual contact with you, they may or may not go to jail, depending on the circumstances.  If you happen to have been under the influence, somewhere you shouldn’t be, scantily clad, or flirting, the justice system says that it may not really be rape, because all of these imply some level of consent.

Ironically, in the BDSM culture, nothing acts as an automatic, irrevocable form of consent.  Quite the contrary, a participant may dresses as scantily as they like and flirt all they like, and yet sex is still not considered a required outcome.  In contrary, our heteronormative patriarchal culture says that if a woman does this she is a tease and actually wants something to occur, whether she admits it or not.  Once a man is riled up, he is entitled to release his tension on any woman he deems suitable.  In many ways, mainstream culture says that the act of a female being in the presence of a male is consent.  BDSM culture challenges that.  Each relationship creates its own unique version of what consent looks like.

In Barber’s article, “Sex and power”, she mentions Dworkin and MacKinnon’s idea that “sex is about male dominance and female subordination” (45).  In this context, women victims are dismissed because they are complaining about how the world works; while, the (in this case) gay BDSM men are violating this norm by being subordinate or dominating another man, and are thus prosecuted.  Furthermore, it is likely that the response would be the same if a heterosexual couple consisted of a female dominant and male submissive.

In essence, our culture finds a way to discriminate against all types of people in ever creative ways.  I have come to the conclusion that consent is seen as arbitrary by society.

At what age can someone consent?  Does the age of the aggressor matter?  Is alcohol consumption consent?  How about drugs?  Can someone consent to sex after they have been emotionally/psychologically abused?  Can consent be withdrawn or is the aggressor entitled to completion of an act after its initiation?  Is dressing or acting a certain way consent?

Why does the opinion of the parties involved not matter?

Sex and Education (Part 1)

We live in a contradictory culture. We are given sexual scripts and expected to follow them to the most minute detail. We fantasize the sexual experience in media and, at the same time, tell youth that they can only experience one form of it: heterosexual, vanilla, intraracial, and monogamous (for life). Given that the foundation of many sex ed programs is abstinence until marriage (which is being pushed ever farther off), too many people are woefully unprepared for their first sexual encounter. So how do we fix this?

The film Let’s Talk about Sex reiterates the point of the U.S.’s lacking sexual education system and its repercussions.  Our focus on abstinence and scare tactics has left us way behind other developed countries.  It is unacceptable for us to continue to have STI and teen pregnancy rates this high.  We need to move to a more holistic approach and cover all of the possibilities for teen health.  The new sexual education system should speak about all of the forms of sexual contact in an open and honest forum.  Furthermore, we need to ensure that our youth is informed and able to express their sexuality in a healthy way for themselves and others.  For example, they should know what abuse and use looks like.  Teenage vulnerability and insecurity combined with the idea of invincibility leaves the rest of us with a responsibility to protect them.  I do not mean keep youth from any and all sexual contact.  I mean protect, to the best of our ability, youth from unhealthy and/or abusive sexual contact.

For illustrative graphs:

Alongside the traditional sexual education classes in school systems, we need to expand our outreach and education attempts to include everyone.  Families need to take on the responsibility of educating their children and fostering an environment in which frank conversations can be had.  Religious groups need to expand beyond the “sex is sin” to, at the very least, an acknowledgement of the probability of ONE sexual encounter a teen will face.  It only takes one encounter to receive an STI and an unplanned pregnancy.  Furthermore, the sex is sin approach keeps teens from seeking out resources. This can be in terms of general information prior to an encounter or help with the consequence of unsafe sex.

The European Model from the film depicts some of the changes I think we need.  In it, children can talk to their parents about sex, even have sleepovers and contraception provided.  In most cases, this is as close to safe, healthy, and non-abusive sexual experiences that a teen could have.

Also, as a part of the sex ed system, myths surrounding sex need to be dispelled, especially those espoused through porn and media.  Similarly, the education should stress that information is based on the “average” and explain what that means.  For example, the average woman will not enjoy a cum-shot, however that is not to say that a woman is wrong for enjoying it.

A sub-topic that our culture likes to ignore is the age of first encounter.  The average age can fluctuate based on several variables, but the general consensus is that it is too young.  The current method of handling this is to simply act as though sex does not exist and refuse to even approach the topic with children.  We need to provide relevant information before it is needed.

Relatedly, we need to address the differences among minorities and how they are expressed. Minorities can have completely different societal expectations. Such as, the hypersexual vision of black men and the feminine/asexual vision of Asian men mentioned in various class discussions.

Along these lines, we need to start educating children about the array of options available to them; this includes alternate sexualities and forms of expressing it.  Through this education, children can become more accepting of these alternatives and possibly help resolve internal conflict for some.

Basically, everything comes down to the dissemination of accurate information.  Teens should be provided with the ability to practice safe sex, in every possible way.  Are there any downsides to creating an environment open to discussion?  What are the alternatives?  Are there any aspects that you deem important that I missed?  Who is ultimately responsible for educating America’s youth?  Can we make this cultural change?  Should morality even be a part of the discussion?

What’s Sex Got To Do With . . . Cologne?

So…I don’t know about you, but it’s not very often that the smell of cologne makes me need sex, then and there.  However, many advertisements would have you believe that it does.  There are the go to Axe commercials with the hilarious depictions of women’s inability to control themselves.  Then there are the more “high-end” cologne advertisements like this one:

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