The Kerfuffle in Ontario about Sex Education


There’s been quite a bit in the news of late about sex education and the regressive pushback (globally) regarding sex ed. You can read bits of it here, and here, and here, and here, here, here, and even here. Let’s just say sex ed has been topical and trending in a big way.

Now we have LifeSite “news” in the game. It should go without saying that pretty much anything LifeSite has to say about anything in the realm of reproductive health should be thrown into the garbage can…BUT…I understand that there are plenty of folks out there who identify as “pro-life” who really, really, really want to believe what is put forth by the organization. Because this blog is apolitical generally (even though the author is far from it), I won’t go into the various issues I have with LifeSite.

BUT…when they deign to step into sex education (which is not new), then I believe it’s necessary to respond. This morning, there is an article that addresses what’s going on (specifically) in Canada, and referring to it as the “Liberal Government’s Sex Education Curriculum.” I could…could…go into what all is so very wrong with that particular characterization, but that again would delve into the raw politics that LifeSite is so keen on misrepresenting in the article. Instead, I’d like to focus on the content presented and explain why every single bit of it is so spectacularly wrong on so many different levels that it would be laughable…except that people here read it and believe it.

What follow here will be excerpts from the article, in italics, and my response to those specific things.

“…this program, which is slated to be implemented this September, is:

    *Completely age-inappropriate
    *Erroneous and unscientific
    *Contains more psychological manipulation than education
    *Fails to address the negative consequences of the acts described in the curriculum
    *Takes a position on the nature of the family that is at odds with many parents’ beliefs and    
       faith traditions…”

First, it’s important to understand what happened in 2010. Comprehensive sex education that was previously provided to Ontario students was pulled because of religious objections. Canada faces the same serious problems with STIs and such that the U.S. faces, and this is documented fact. From the same provided link, “…over 85% of parents agreed with the statement “Sexual health education should be provided in the schools” and a majority of these parents approved of schools providing young people with information on a wide range of sexual health topics including puberty, reproduction, healthy relationships, STI/AIDS prevention, birth control, abstinence, sexual orientation, and sexual abuse/coercion…” Note here, it doesn’t say religious parents…it says parents. That is 85%…an overwhelming majority of Canadian parents want sex education providing the wide-range scope of information available to children. This isn’t “at odds” with parents’ beliefs and “faith traditions” – like in the U.S. (and anywhere, really), if parents wish for their children to know their “faith traditions,” the place for that is not in public school, but in the parents’ respective faith institutions…aka church.

Next, insofar as age appropriateness, psychological manipulation, and “unscientific” information, the author is asserting that using anatomically correct terminology (you know, those medical science-y words, noted below), the notion that teaching children correct names of body parts (as opposed to “hoo-hoo” and “ding-dong”…or even the more innocuous “private parts”) indicates that these religious parents are objecting to reality-based education based on their own discomfort, denial, and shame regarding their own bodies. I’ll return to this point, though, when I get to where the author gripes about correct names for body parts.

“…And, equally importantly, this curriculum obliterates the parents’ right to be the first educators of their children….”

Okay. In this, I agree that parents are the first educator of their children. School curricula that focuses on sex education does not, in any way, “obliterate” that. To suggest that is nothing short of fear-mongering.

“…The problems begin with the curriculum’s Grade 1 proposition of teaching the correct names for human genitalia.

As a parent of 3 children and a grandparent of 5, I can tell you that most children master the toddler pounding bench by the age of 3. Round pegs go in round holes.

Couple this with Wynne’s Grade 1 description and naming of human genitals and – voila – your child implicitly knows how to have sex – all by the age of 6! The rest of it – the “consent”, the masturbation, the oral and anal sex, the gender identity, and so on – is just the icing on the cake. This so-called “sex ed” curriculum begins by making your child aware of the act of sexual intercourse….”

Yes, the author actually complains about teaching children the correct names for their body parts…and justifies it as “because parent/grandparent.” As though one has anything to do with the other. When we teach our children the names of their hands, or their noses, or their eyes, we don’t give those body parts nicknames. We call them by their correct names. We don’t necessarily delve into minutiae or anything (such as “nostrils” when referring to the holes in our noses, or “knuckes” when referring to the joints of our fingers and toes), but the basics.

But this author takes the idea of correct anatomical terminology and tries then to turn it into something it absolutely is not…that because children are taught correct anatomy names, they somehow “implicitly [know] how to have sex – all by the age of 6!” – complete with the exclamation point, as though to underscore the outrage.

think of the children

This ignores completely that implicitly, children already know about sex. Not nitty-gritty detail or anything, but as a mother and a grandmother, the author must know that small children walk in on their parents, for example. As a mother and a grandmother, the author must know that children touch themselves and find pleasure in doing so (more on that to come).

Then the author takes the importance of consent, and tries to connect it with oral and anal sex in a rather disingenuous way. The importance of teaching consent goes necessarily to earliest childhood. That is, after all, the very springboard from which “good touch/bad touch” became a method of teaching for kindergarteners. I have my own concerns about “good touch/bad touch” – mainly for the responsibility it places on small children for their own sexual safety…though I agree with the push to fight against sexual abuse of children. This is the very heart of the discussion of consent — not instruction on oral and anal sex. But again, more on that in a bit.

“…And this is the problem with Wynne’s sex ed; while it may discuss sexual intercourse and other sexual activities, it really isn’t about sex.

To understand this, please note the item to the right [image of a ballpoint pen]. We all can identify it as a pen. But if I were to ask you to define “pen”, you’d probably hesitate.Definitions have two parts; one: identify the structure; and two: identify the function.

A pen, in its most simplistic form is therefore: one: a thin, hollow cylinder filled with ink; and two: that is used for writing.

But if I were to take this pen and drive it into the neck of a person standing near me, the pen would cease to exist; it would now become a weapon.

The point being that once you fail to honour the definition of something or use it for some other purpose, it ceases to be what it was meant to be and it becomes something else….”

Well, talk about convoluted, word salad analogies here. I have said before, and I will say here again (as a very small point of agreement with something the author points out). Sex education is not (entirely) about sex (as she’s attempting to define it). Sex education is predominantly about hygiene…but that’s a full blog entry for another day. For now, I just want to point out that the author is taking the “problem” with “Wynne’s sex ed” and attempting to turn it into something that it most certainly isn’t. In Ontario (where this entire discussion is happening), as a result of trying to turn back the clock on comprehensive sex ed, a great disservice was done to those youths, and that was expressed in unequivocal terms…with increases in unplanned pregnancies and STI transmission across Ontario youths as -what I believe to be- a direct result of the decision in 2010.

But sure, let’s talk about how a pen can be used in terms of “structure” and “function”…then proceed to describe it as a “weapon.” Because that isn’t completely meaningless. Any single thing on this planet that we can name has a structure and function. Most things can also be used as weapons. Such as penises…during rape…where the act of sex is turned into a matter of power and control, rather than something that should be done only with…….wait for it……..

…consent. But talking to children about consent amounts to discussions of anal sex somehow, rather than about teaching children that their bodies belong solely to them.

“…So let’s go back to Wynne’s so-called “sex ed” curriculum. If its purpose is sex education, then, obviously, it needs to be about sex. So what is the definition of sex?

Sex is a life-giving force that unites the man and woman through total mutual self-giving.

Don’t like my definition? Truth is it’s not mine. Neither is it the definition of the Christian faith (though that faith does honour the definition), nor that of any other faith for that matter. Nor is it a construct of any society or culture that either exists now or has existed in the past. No. This is nature’s definition: is, was and always will be….”

Let’s dig further into that claim, shall we? The author would like ALL of us to define sex as a “life-giving force” strictly between a man and a woman…because “nature” says so. Well, that small 3-letter word that the author wants to force into a singular definition (speaking of pegs & holes, to use her very own phrases here) has multiple definitions. But sure, let’s keep it to “nature.” While we’re discussing “nature” in a heteronormative context (because of course), let’s ignore that in nature, same-sex activity really and truly exists…in lots and lots of different species. More than 1,500 according to some reports…and that’s just in the animal kingdom. Doesn’t even touch into plants. But sure, let’s just say that the author’s chosen definition of faith is the immutable truth and ignore the science…and then try to deny that said chosen definition is religiously-driven (which is precisely what the author is driving at with full-on denial in the process).


“…The very anatomical, physiological, and biochemical nature of the human male and female gives testimony to this truth. Sex is the attraction that draws male and female together, and it is meant to generate new life through the couple’s physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual union. Moreover, it is that union which will allow the couple to remain bonded when raising the children of their union, things get tough. Sex is so much more than just sexual intercourse or other sexual activities; it’s about responsibility, self-sacrifice, becoming one, and ultimately, about children….”

Let’s be very honest here. I don’t rightly care about “spiritual union” — I do care that the author attempts to completely dismiss anyone other than her heteronormative ideals. There are, quite literally, hundreds of sex acts in the human compendium…there is only one specific sex act that can result in pregnancy. And only at certain times, under certain precise conditions, and only during childbearing years. Heck, I’ll keep it to heteronormative terms, if that’ll make the author feel a smidge better. Let’s say a couple who cannot have children, for whatever reason, choose to get married…let’s say one or both are infertile for medical reasons, or the woman is postmenopausal, or they’re child-free by choice…whatever. Their lack of ability to conceive somehow diminishes the aspect of having sex? Really? That is an utter falsehood, disingenuous on its face…even setting aside its crap heteronormative stance…which is only a tiny fraction of the problem with her assertions.

“…So what about pleasure? you might ask. It’s part of sex, but it’s not in the definition.

You are correct. Pleasure is a by-product of sex, in the same way that creating wood chips and saw dust is a by-product of using a chainsaw. The purpose of a chainsaw is to cut wood not to produce wood chips and saw dust; nevertheless, with every use, the chain saw not only cuts the wood, but also produces wood chips and saw dust as well. So it is with sex and pleasure.  

But pleasure is the foundation of Wynne’s “sex ed” curriculum, and therefore, where it goes wrong. This new curriculum ignores the life-giving facet of sex, other than to suggest that the creation of children is something to be avoided. It denies that sex is meant only for a man and a woman, and it ignores the union that sex creates. In short, Wynne’s “sex ed” curriculum totally distorts the true definition of sex, and attempts to replace it instead with one that emphasizes pleasure and autonomy.

So what happens when the definition of something is ignored? It becomes something else….”

Again…word salad. Yes, sex is pleasurable…but it is not a by-product of sex. It is actually a direct part of biological anatomy. There is no other purpose or function, for example, for a woman’s clitoris other than sexual pleasure. It is not a “genital” in the sense of reproductive capacity – but it is very much a sex organ. The only purpose the author’s “chainsaw” analogy has here is to serve to confuse…or to suggest that reproduction is the only purpose of sex. Which I’ve already stated quite plainly where the author has it completely backwards. But yeah, sawdust…or something.

“…So if Wynne’s new curriculum isn’t about sex, what is it about? In truth, it’s about Predatory Pleasure-Seeking –obtaining sexual gratification however, whenever, with whomever, or with no one other than yourself. Don’t believe me? Read the curriculum for yourself and see if what is being offered to your children meets with the true definition of sex, or is a grotesque distortion of it. And please be aware of just who is responsible for the framing of this new curriculum, Dr. Benjamin Levin, now convicted of 3 counts of child pornography.

One: I agree that all parents should read any sex education curriculum being provided to their children. Including this one. Two, yes, Professor Levin has been charged with crimes related to exploitation and child pornography. This is certainly true. What isn’t true is that he is “responsible for the framing of this new curriculum” — THAT would be a “grotesque distortion” if there is one. And, it amounts to what is known as ad hominem attack…working to undermine the argument FOR something by attacking a person involved in that something. Professor Levin was involved in the framework (he’s a former education minister in Canada, and was a successful one, whatever his current legal troubles happen to be). His “fingerprint” is on the curriculum, as stated in a different conservative article that is critical of Levin, but doesn’t go so far as the LifeSite author in claiming he was solely responsible as a weak attempt to discredit the curriculum itself. (Note, a “fingerprint” in something doesn’t even imply that one had a hand in something…as pointed out here. My suspicion is, more or less, that said “fingerprint” has to do with Prof Levin’s time as a former education minister, and given that he was retired, he had absolutely no hand in the updated curriculum.) Three, it’s interesting to me that the LifeSite “news” author (Janet E. Smith) is busily trying to claim that Prof Levin was responsible for the framework, yet her entire “news article” diatribe addresses Kathleen Wynne…I wonder why that might be. Hmmmm.

So if Kathleen Wynne and her Liberal government really want to create a new sex education curriculum, the first place they need to get back to is the true definition of sex.”

The “true” definition. Well, before we can get to any true definition of anything, we actually have to understand what the word “true” means…and truth is a concept that organizations like LifeSite “news” have a real problem with.

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