People who have had sex are worth as much as a chewed-up piece of gum or a used toothbrush.
That's the atrocious lesson that Texas sex educators are teaching children in middle school to shame them out of having sex before marriage—assuming they can get married, a right that many of these Texas adolescents may never have.
Canyon ISD has recently come under fire for their sex education curriculum, which emphasizes the importance of abstaining from sex of any kind lest they become as worthless and disgusting as a used glob of Bubble Tape.
A group of parents got their hands on the lesson plans and are now protesting the district's decision to provide sex ed instruction that relies on shame instead of evidence.
Read more about the impact of abstinence-only programs in Texas after the jump.Clichéd slut-shaming tactics are commonplace for young people learning about sex in Texas. Women are told that their virginity is a special gift, tightly wrapped in a bow (you can guess the physiological connection here). If they give away their special gifts to anyone that they don't marry, they will have nothing to give to their husband. Presumably, their fathers will have to substitute prizewinning goats to present to the grooms.
Many Texas youth also suffer through the “sticky tape” demonstration, in which a piece of double-sided tape is passed around the room for each adolescent to touch. Students later discover that the tape was actually… genitals? And they were having sex with it? And now it won't stick to anything?
Unfortunately, these harmful analogies and demonstrations aren't exactly a new phenomenon in Texas schools.
Texas requires schools who teach sex education to “present abstinence from sexual activity as the preferred choice of behavior in relationship to all sexual activity for unmarried persons of school age” and the only method that is 100 percent effective against STIs and pregnancy. Condom and contraception use, if taught at all, can only be discussed “in terms of human use reality rates.”
For clarification, the “human use reality rates” of abstinence are not taught, even though the majority of people do not choose to wait until marriage to have sex.
According to state law, parents have the right to review all sex ed curriculum materials before instruction begins. Recently, a Canyon ISD parent took that opportunity and shared what she found.
“People want to marry a virgin, just like they want a virgin toothbrush or stick of gum,” one lesson plan reads. The plan suggests using a “stick of gum” demonstration to show the difference in “used versus new,” a concept that most adolescents have successfully grasped by middle school.
The Canyon parent shared what she found with other parents and community members.
“There is a difference between teaching children about the real consequences of any sexual encounter and teaching them that they become less valuable because they chose to have sex before marriage,” one parent, Kristina Drumheller, said in an interview.
Kidnapping and rape victim Elizabeth Smart has recently spoken out against this type of abstinence-only shaming.
“I thought, 'Oh, my gosh, I'm that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away,'” Smart said. “And that's how easy it is to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value.”
Smart said that her belief that she was a worthless piece of gum after being raped was part of the reason she didn't run away to find help.
Humiliation- and guilt-based sex education shuts down discussions of sexual violence, consent, healthy sexuality, sexual agency, and safe sex before they can even start.
And as a result of these ineffective policies, Texas ranks third in teen pregnancies and first in repeat teen pregnancies. Why do we keep teaching this ridiculous curriculum? Surely there's some sort of critical thinking that goes into the crafting of these policies, right? Can someone—anyone—articulate a single reason why we shouldn't be teaching adolescents how to keep themselves safe and make healthy decisions for themselves?
In the words of Rick Perry, “If the point is, we're gonna go stand up here and say, listen, y'all go have sex and go have the whatever is going on, and we'll worry with that, and here's the ways to have safe sex, I'm sorry, call me old-fashioned if you want.”
Natalie tweets from @nsanluis.