Avoiding any discussion of sex at home and in the classroom creates a huge void of information that has to be filled. Curious minds will never stop asking about sex, and who will be there to answer those questions? School children spend most of their time with peers, and given this situation, uninformed buddies will most likely be their primary source of information about sex. No wonder misconceptions about sex linger on! We certainly don’t want kids moving into their teenage years (and early adulthood) badly uninformed about such a delicate topic. It’s not right to proceed into a battle suffering from cluelessness.
I still remember how my classmates in Grade 5, particularly the boys, went berserk when our Science teacher jokingly said that “ang mga walang bulbol ay hindi magkakaanak.” We were then discussing about the human reproductive system, and if my memory serves me right, that is the only time sex was discussed in class during my years in Manila’s Juan Luna Elementary School. I was only 10 years old then, and I neither knew what bulbol is, nor did I ask anyone about it. I did not ask my classmates, since I’m scared they will laugh at my ignorance. I also did not ask my mother about it because I find it too embarrassing (my mom is a very devout Catholic, which explains why she named me after two saints). I only learned about what bulbol is when I was in high school.
Expectedly, reproductive system was once again discussed during our biology class in Ramon Magsaysay High School – Manila. However, the emphasis was more on how germ (sex) cells multiply. In other words, the discussion was highly technical. Practical topics related to the subject were shunned. In the textbook we used as reference (a book simply titled Biology by Carmelita Capco), there’s actually a lesson both natural and artificial family methods, but unfortunately, those were never discussed in class. I just hope my former classmates took the time to read that part.
A "No to RH BIll" tarpaulin outside Our Lady of Loreto Church in Sampaloc, Manila (personal photo)
During my high school junior year, my teacher in MAPEH (Music, Arts, Physical education, and Health) reiterated in our class that “sex is sacred.” Knowing her age and her religiosity, those views are understandable. However, she also shared in our class a totally wrong view of masturbation (even if she is an MA holder). She liked it to the extraction of coconut milk (paggata)! She warned us males: “Huwag kayong gata nang gata!” According to her, repeatedly doing so would adversely affect the quality of the gata (an obvious reference to sperm) in the long run. I highly doubt though if any of my classmates took her seriously.
Scientifically speaking, her remarks have no scientific basis. There has never been any study that links masturbation to physical disabilities among newborns. It does not even cause harm to anyone who does it. In fact, Newsweek even came out with a piece late last year saying that “the act” (http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2010/10/07/why-masturbation-helps-procreation.html) can even help in procreation. Evidently, the negative views about it has been molded by conservative dogmas on sexuality. This makes me wonder: should teachers be allowed to inject their religious beliefs into class discussions?
Given these anecdotes, one cannot really rely on schools to get sufficient knowledge about sex. How do you bridge the gap, then? More importantly, whose responsibility is it to give sex education? Lest it is still not clear to my readers, I totally believe that sex is really necessary in our lives. I think parents have the primary responsibility to do that. Parents, ideally, can talk to their children about such sensitive matters without malice. I am assuming that parents themselves are well-informed about sex, and honestly, this is something no one can assure.
Parents must know how to approach their kids about the subject. Sex is a very important and indispensable part of our lives, and it must be talked about. I don’t know why others consider it a taboo. Another question is, at what age should parents start discussing the subject to their kids? A nun I asked about it told me that it should be done at the “appropriate time.” But how do you determine that? For me, it depends on a child’s level of maturity.
As I wrote earlier, my Mom never talked to me about sex, aside from warning me repeatedly (when I’m in my late teenage years) to avoid any “disgrasya.” I heeded her. Leaving sex education up to teachers is no easy task, too. First, the course curricula of the subjects involved (MAPEH, EPP, Science, and Home Economics) must be updated.
Times are changing fast, and teachers should not limit their discussion on the parts of reproductive system and how cell division happens. They must also talk about how significant sex is on human lives. The goal here is to make students understand the implications of sex in their lives. After letting students know the basics of the reproductive system, the teacher can start exploring the more relevant aspects of it. I know others might find the views I am espousing here as disturbing. As they say, if there are ideas that promote change and progress, there are also thoughts that promote backwardness.