It’s not often that I’ll step out of my usual box of “someone ranting about arts” to discuss sexual things. Yet, that’s where this post is going. so I’ll warn you now that if topics such as “family planning” or “condoms” or “practising safe sex” or “sex education” or “animated porn cartoons” make you uncomfortable or even offend you, you should go away now.
Seriously: right now.
Okay… you’ve been warned…!
See, there’s this problem over in Nanaimo, where a Grade 8 kid (around 13 or so) was given a copy of a book. A flip-book; you know, the kind where you let the pages flip quickly past your thumb and the series of images on the page seem to move, like a movie. Yeah, that sort of thing.
The flip book was given to him as a part of an in-school programme with excellent goals.
As part of a new district policy to make better use of time during exam week, the school offered students personal health classes in personal health and planning this year.
AIDS Vancouver Island has provided some course materials for a number of years for the programme
Splendid! This is good, and something that needs to be taught to the kids somehow, sometime, by someone. Typically parents who say ” this sort of thing needs to be taught in the home” are also frequently the parents least likely to actually do the educating about sex at all. However, that’s beside the point here.
In addition to other materials from other similar organizations, AIDS Vancouver Island has been involved with providing course materials for a number of years as part of the programme, so the credentials of the content is both sound and respectable.
For more of the ins-and-outs of the matter itself, you can read THIS STORY on the CBC News site, as well as THIS STORY as well as A LATER ONE on the site for The Vancouver Sun.
What got me thinking about this at all was this tweet:
Learning about the delightful and intelligent Nadine Thornhill of Ottawa (but soon to be San Francisco-based), I then gave some thought to the question of this particular educational material and its possible inappropriate use with 13-year olds.
Here’s an animated *.GIF of the book, showing what you would would see if a copy of it was in your hand.
This following graphic will show you images of two-dimensional characters engaging in
the consensual act of coitus – apparently in a pleasurable fashion – and there is no
specification that they are actually married or even in a committed relationship.
You will also see a man’s willy, which has a condom placed upon it.
Proceed with caution if you feel this might cause you discomfort.
I’ve put this together from the original PDF (you can find that PDF here: CLICKY!) which was published by the Chee Mamuk Aboriginal Program, BC Centre for Disease Control in 2010 as part of their client resources. They describe it as “Flipping fun – a pocket-sized flip book that models condom use.” The point of it is to promote “Safer sex and sexual health > Safer sex” and within the specific population it targets being “youth.” Presumably the very specific sub-set of that is First Nations youth, as there have been concerns expressed about STI and HIV become more wide-spread in recent years, and the promotion of safer sex and contraction of diseases in that community.
Put on Something Sexy (medium)
CLICK HERE to see the above animated version of Put on Something Sexy in a larger image size
Sticking with Twitter as a sort-of litmus test of the acceptability of the material, here’s some reaction to the issue.
There’s the confirmation that the intention of the material has been met: education on how to use a prophylactic device. All good there. Huzzah! Knowledge is power, the use of a condom isn’t as difficult as you might have though, easy to do by anyone, and there’s at least one less mystery which might provide resistance to the use of them therefore.
How could someone object to this, one wonders. It’s possible that a thirteen-year-old male might feel uncomfortable discussing the matter with their parent, but it doesn’t seem to me possible that this same male could be un-aware of the existence of condoms, nor that he might not be considering his options regarding sexual activity in the near future. Perhaps I’m presuming too much, but one might suggest that the innocence of the average 13-year-old male is hardly un-touched long before he sees this fairly benign and un-erotic booklet? There is the omnipresence of the interweb and its propensity to serve up anything you can state in a few words and which are shoved into Google.
There are a few things one can object to in the book, however.
Both of these quite good points.
The male’s tattoo, and the female’s feather accessory do both smack more than a little of tokenism to make the characters more readily identifiable as First Nations community members. Taken to a ridiculous extreme, this would also manifest itself as two people wearing wooden shoes to make them ‘more Dutch,’ or perhaps both of them smoking and frying some horse meat to make them ‘more French,’ or both of them firing off handguns to make them ‘more American.’ Still, the need to have two people who weren’t clearly white does require something more than a slight tinting to their flesh.
Additionally, the reality of sex – it’s a bit messy, and it’s certainly ain’t elegant as viewing material – is hardly on display here. The idealized images above don’t really grab the eye of the kids, and basically continue that style of textbook illustration that reduce to the barest essentials something far more complex and thus make it… well… a bit boring, really.
To return to the title of this post, however, and the real question this whole thing raises in my mind:
If the kid doesn’t get the information at school, and in the grade where they enter the level of education they start really concerning themselves with careers and other ‘adult-oriented’ questions of how to live their lives, then where do they do it? Seriously: when?
Okay, sure, the chances are good that only a minority of the students in Grade 8 now will have experienced a sexual act that would necessitate the use of a condom (based on my experience in high school, anyway… not that I’m bitter or anything… no no), some of them actually will have done so by the time they get into the senior grades. Do we wait until they’re about to have sex, then rush up to the parked cars and set-up the flip-charts with diagrammes of reproduction systems, shove a handful of condoms through the window, and then hope for the best? Clearly that’s not going to work as they’re not going to be paying attention to anything other than how annoying the adults are being, and it’s already too damned late for them to remember anything.
No, telling them about stuff they need to know before they actually need to know it is the best, to my mind.
After all, we teach our youth about all of the traffic signs and potential behaviour that causes automobile accidents before they get behind the wheel of a car; why not teach them about STI /HIV /AIDS and how to use condoms and dental dams before they start navigating a bed?
NOTE ADDED LATER: It is only now that I’ve read Nadine Thornhill’s article about “Sex: A Tell-All Exhibition” (although I may have read it months ago when she posted it originally). It’s only now that I realize the above final paragraph mirrors her closing argument about the teaching of material prior to its actual use. What can I say; great minds think a link… and fools seldom differ, yes, I know.