Monday, April 17, 2006

Teaching Erotic Techniques?

The Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum seem intent on trying something that is doomed not to work. You know how they love to go to court; well, they think they have a case over some wording in the Maryland regulations, but I can't imagine that any reasonable person would see it their way.

There's an AIDS epidemic in this country, and about half the new cases are found in men who have sex with men (MSM) -- not necessarily "gay men," the acronym MSM is intended to include guys who don't think of themselves as gay but do have sex with other guys. If this seems weird, think of men in prison, fifty percent of whom have sex with other guys, very few of whom are gay. The highest risk of transmission of the AIDS virus is through anal sex, partly because the tissues of the rectum are very absorbent and also because anal sex may cause abrasions that allow the virus to enter the bloodstream even more easily.

I would think that this would be a good thing to warn students about. A recent CDC survey found that about six per cent of Americans have had anal or oral sex with another person of their same sex -- we can't break those figures down, who did what with who, but it's not trivial, when you're talking six percent -- let's say half, let's say three percent had anal sex, of a population of 300 million people, we're talking about 9,000,000 people engaging in this high-risk behavior. In our little county of about a million people, that's thirty-thousand people having same-sex anal sex (which is not a pretty phrase, but the English language fails us here). If we are going to teach sex-ed with the object of addressing serious public health issues, then I'd say, we ought to teach students about how AIDS is spread, so they can learn to avoid risky behaviors.

Unfortunately, such a plan comes up hard against 1.prudishness and 2.bigotry.

Here's the CRC's idea: Section 13a. of COMAR, the Maryland State regulation, states: Erotic techniques of human intercourse may not be discussed. The CRC has said before, and they're still saying, that if you use the words "anal sex" in a classroom, you are "teaching erotic techniques."

For instance, the previous condom video had a sentence something like, "Remember always to use a condom for vaginal, oral, or anal sex." The CRC hit the ceiling over this, shouting to anyone who would listen that the school district was "teaching erotic techniques."

Listen, I am keeping a grip here, a sense of decorum, y'know, because, well, I can just imagine if they were really teaching erotic techniques in the schools. I'm not going there, but ... There is some crazy stuff out there in the world, crazier than anything some school district would decide to teach middle-and-high-school students in a health class. I can just imagine ... uh, never mind ...

Using the word "anal sex" in a classroom is informative and just might save somebody's life. You'd have to be absolutely nuts to actually believe that saying those two words amounted to "teaching erotic techniques." In my opinion.

Regarding those two objections. The first one is easy, and I am a little sympathetic to it. Some people just might be uncomfortable, out of a sense of modesty or prudishness, about their children hearing the words "anal sex" in school. To this I can only say, I'm sorry the world has come to this, but there is a real danger out there, a real disease that has infected millions of people, and I don't want your kids, or mine, to catch it. And this is how it is passed, so, indelicate as it is, the teacher may have to mention it.

The second objection is insidious. Look, you know as well as I do that the CRC doesn't care how some silly clause of COMAR is interpreted. The reason they don't want to use the phrase "anal sex" in class is that they would like to take this opportunity to teach that gay people are dirty and carry germs. They have actually proposed that the class should teach that "homosexual behavior" spreads AIDS. But that's easily dismissed -- dressing up like Donna Summer and singing "Bad Girl" on Karaoke Night is not going to spread AIDS.

Being gay does not have anything to do with it. A monogamous gay couple has the same risk as a monogamous heterosexual couple, when it comes to contracting HIV.

According to the CDC, "Recent risk behaviors [for MSM] associated with high HIV incidence were having >5 male sex partners during the preceding 6 months, having unprotected anal sex with men, or having injected drugs."

See, you've got to say it. The problem is not anyone's sexual orientation, the problem is engaging in particularly risky behaviors. There's no guarantee that a person won't catch HIV in some innocent way, which I can't think of, whatever, there're no guarantees in this world, but there are some behaviors that are just so risky that they should be avoided. Unprotected anal sex with a noncommitted partner is one of those things, it's just Russian Roulette, and people who are likely to try it should know about the risk.

I don't know what the answer is here. The community will have to decide if this is too much, using the term "anal sex" in a sex-ed course. Personally, I'm okay with it, my kids watch South Park, y'know, this isn't going to shock them. I understand that these are things that polite society has avoided talking about, and that there may be some embarrassment associated with the concept, and if we decide to avoid it for that reason, well, I disagree but understand.

On the other hand, if some people want our kids to be taught that "being gay" or "homosexual behavior" is dirty, gross, and causes you to get sick and die -- we don't need that. It's simple bigotry, no need to dress it up or pretend anything else.

The CRC wants to pretend that it's against the law to mention anal sex in a public school. That's absurd, and any intelligent person can see that. But we do know that there are out-of-town lawyers who just love to take taxpayers' money capriciously, and the CRC is on-board with the frivolous lawsuit thing. It may cost MCPS something to do the right thing, but that's not a good reason to fail to teach the facts to our children.


Blogger andrea said...

The statement to use a condom for every act of vaginal, oral and anal sex comes right from the CDC and as I pointed out to some crazed CRCers- a surgeon general report as well. You know, Jim, the real filthy stuff I would like my kids not to hear is about our soldiers dying every day in Iraq but as you point out- this is happening. So "polite society" be damned- my kids have to hear about the murder and maiming of kids their age and younger

April 18, 2006 4:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

..or hear about the fairy tale of "exgays".....


April 18, 2006 5:00 PM  

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