Merging Religious Observance and Sexuality Education
I grew up in a very religious home, went to an all-girls’ school, and received no sexuality education before my sophomore year in college. Fast forward about 12 years and I became a sexuality educator. And I still travel in fairly religious, conservative circles. Some of my acquaintances think my being a sexuality educator is great “ they have someone with whom they can discuss, joke, and ask questions about their sex lives! Some are neutral about it, as though I teach Pythagorean Theorem instead of sexuality. Then there are those who see me as a heretic.
I’ve offered to conduct programs in my own religious community. Most of the time the religious leaders laugh at me; kids in our community don’t receive sexuality education either. Well, not formally anyway.
Some parents do a better job talking to their kids than others. Some parents avoid talking to their kids altogether. What’s interesting to me is that those parents who avoid talking to their kids don’t want mine in their homes “ as though the knowledge my kids have will somehow corrupt their children. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, those kids already have quite a bit of knowledge¦ albeit often inaccurate, and learned from peers “ but not my kids, they know these conversations are not meant to be broadcast! Yet, too often, when one of my kids has a play-date, I get a phone call from an irate parent about some ˜inappropriate’ conversation that took place in their home during a play date and letting me know my child is no longer welcome in their home. Hmm, whatever happened to providing supervision?
I wonder what it will take for sexuality education to become commonplace in my community and for my kids to have play dates despite my training. At first I thought this was universal to religious communities. But then I got a phone call to do a presentation for a nearby, different religion, religious, autism parent support group. Seems this group of parents wanted to hear all they could about sexuality education as it relates to their children. At first I was nervous, keeping my goals low: not getting any dirty looks or having anyone run out the door screaming. I was pleasantly surprised. I had an attentive and interactive audience! Sadly, it looks like it’s just my religious community that has this closed-minded approach to sexuality education. Some days I wonder what it would take for it to change. Other days I just focus on making sure my own children are well educated. If I, and eventually they, can disseminate more successfully, it will be a happy day indeed!