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May 08, 2006



I think what kids really need is "relationship ed" - getting them to think about what is a healthy, ethical, fulfilling relationship, and what kinds of sexual choices will make them more capable (or less capable) of sustaining a trusting, faithful, unselfish, committed relationship as adults. The technical stuff about pregnancy and STDs they can find on the Internet, but who (besides you, Hugo!) is telling them about the emotional scarring that may come from being intimate with someone you didn't know as well as you thought? Or the emotional numbness from learning to relate to others just as objects of gratification? Obviously this extends to all kinds of nonsexual relationships too. But I suspect this is too "value-laden" for most schools - they'd rather just show you how to put a condom on a banana.


Hugo - Thanks for the information on Good Sex. I’m always looking for additional resources to add to my collection. I normally steer clear of conservative ones for precisely the reasons you point out – they either try to scare kids to be chaste or they tell them sex is dirty and horrible and they should save it for someone they love. Many conservative sex education curriculum perpetuate negative gender stereotypes and either ignore or condemn glbt persons. Are you able to use the curriculum as designed, or do you have to make corrections along the way?

One correction: Our Whole Lives was created jointly by the UUA and the United Church of Christ. It was designed to be used in any setting – secular or religious. For use in a church setting, it includes Sexuality and Our Faith with a component from Unitarian-Unversalist and one from United Church of Christ perspective. I teach Our Whole Lives/Sexuality and Our Faith in a United Church of Christ congregation using Sexuality and Our Faith from an explicitly Christian and biblical perspective.

I agree wholeheartedly about the importance sexuality education. I believe churches have both an opportunity and an obligation to meet people at their place of need – I believe there are few places of need more pressing than sexuality. In my experience, many parents are so uncomfortable talking about sexuality that they’re thrilled if someone from the church will take on the challenge. As non-parents in some sense we have more credibility in the eyes of teens because they sense we aren’t trying to convince them to glue their knees together and never have sex.

I am a huge fan of Our Whole Lives – because it is comprehensive, because it is lifespan sexuality education, because it is medically accurate and age appropriate. The comprehensive nature is often characterized as being about condoms (which is covered), but it’s much more than that. The comprehensive nature of Our Whole Lives is about relationships – about starting and ending them, about dating and about building communication skills, about preventing sexual assault and caring for one’s emotional and spiritual self as well as one’s physical self. I heard recently about one of “my kids” from Our Whole Lives who has communicated successfully with her boyfriend about sexuality and they made a joint decision to delay sex in their relationship. To me that makes every hour I spent on Our Whole Lives worth it.

I think starting younger is important – if we wait until “our kids” (I use exactly the same language about the kids in my church that you use about the kids in your church) are 15 or 16 before we talk about sexuality we’ve missed the boat. Our Whole Lives starts at Kindergarten with information about being okay to say no to being touched to identifying body parts correctly and by their correct names. For grades 4-6 it prepares kids for adolescence. Of course grades 7-9 deal with all the stuff kids in that age group are going through and prepares them for later adolescence as well as dealing the horrible stuff of sorting out what its like to feel attracted to someone, to go to boy girl parties and so forth. I think if we wait to start educating our kids about sexuality, we miss many opportunities to positively impact our kids lives and help prevent impetuous sexual decision making.

I’ve also found a deep hunger on the part of adults to talk about sexuality – not be lectured or talked to about it, but discuss it, to tackle issues and share their views and hear what other people have to say. People seem to want to share their experiences with other people who may or may not have had similar experiences. At the same time, many adults seem to lack the appropriate language to talk about sexuality and intimacy. Building that language empowers people to describe and transform their relationships (that’s very social constructionist of me isn’t it?). But, once a person learns to talk about intimacy it becomes easier to ask for, to offer, to create in your relationships. There's a workshop in Our Whole Lives called "With Whom Would You Do It" and very few of the activities it addresses are explicitly sexual in nature - almost all of them are about creating intimacy between persons (it includes things like spend an evening in front of a roaring fireplace or sharing a hammock or reading a book together). Once participants finish that, they see intimacy in a different light and it helps to distinguish sex from intimacy and vice versa.


>Or the emotional numbness from learning to relate to others just as objects of gratification?

Or the emotional numbness from being constantly told that your body is unacceptable and therefore you'll never have any sex?

Relationship ed is a great idea. It's especially needed by the kids who are most at risk of ending up in abusive relationships. But at the same time, getting an oversight board to agree on a curriculum could be just as difficult as sex ed.


Glen, thanks for the correction about OWL -- I assumed it was an entirely UU operation; my bad for not looking at it more closely.

I have great confidence than in the right hands, OWL is a great tool -- I just prefer something a bit more explicitly grounded in the Gospel.


I hope to take your class on Human Sexuality in fall of 2007! (I also plan on taking your Men and Masculinity course). After reading this blog, my curiosity about your human sexuality class only grows, and I yearn to see you will teach human sexuality in at PCC in relation to how you teach it at church. Because truly, even though you don't talk specifically about your faith in our Women's Studies class, I can truly see the love of God pouring from both how you deliver your lectures and in what you say to us. You are truly a light that shines at PCC. I felt a strong pull to that specific section of History 25B (even though I was, at first, scared to take a women's studies class because I considered myself to be anti-feminist at the time) I even had an entirely different schedule worked out and paid for! And now, I thank God that I snatched that last place in History 25B at the very last minute, for my life would not be the same without your passion and convictions. I eagerly await taking your Men's class and human sexuality class, because you achieve such a perfect balance between your progressive ideals and Christian faith. As a future teacher and a Christian, I find that absolutely inspiring. And now, back to my autobiography! (What prompted me to write this was the thought of you teaching sex ed at church and sexuality at school - sorry if it didn't relate specifically to this blog).

Lynn Gazis-Sax

It looks as if Philadelphia Yearly Meeting is recommending Our Whole Lives (http://www.pym.org/pm/lib_comments.php?id=418_0_108_0_C). Which supports my impression that we don't actually have a Quaker curriculum at that level of detail (though there seems to be at least one Quaker author writing on the topic).


Mermade, thank you -- I'm moved and touched. I walk a thin line in keeping my faith out of the classroom, but still allowing it to inform what I do and why I do it.

Lynn, I think OWL is the curriculum of choice across the broad spectrum of liberal churches. If I weren't evangelically inclined, I'd recommend it wholeheartedly to everyone.


Lynn, as I said I think Our Whole Lives is an amazing curriculum. Check out http://www.ucc.org/justice/sexuality.htm for more information about it including a training schedule. The ucc site includes great background information about Our Whole Lives and the core values of the program. For use in a church setting, you use both components - Our Whole Lives which is designed to be used in a secular or multi-faith setting and focuses on medically accurate information and Sexuality and Our Faith which places the Our Whole Lives workshops in a faith and values setting.

When I was trained in Our Whole Lives the trainer held her hands about four inches apart and said, "This is sex," then she opened her arms as wide as she could and said, "This is sexuality. Our Whole Lives is about sexuality," hands four inches apart, "and sex. You get both because you can't separate them."

Hugo I've been wondering something - would you expand on what you said about wishing Our Whole Lives was more explicitly grounded in the gospel? I'm not entirely clear on what you feel is lacking and I think we're looking for different things from sexuality education curriculum.


but who (besides you, Hugo!) is telling them about the emotional scarring that may come from being intimate with someone you didn't know as well as you thought?

Lots of people, even those horrible sex-positive lefties. I am reading a lot of sex-ed literature for teens these days due to having an almost-teen in the house, and I really wonder where you get this 'it's only about a condom on a banana' stuff. It makes a nice strawman, but I'm not seeing it.

I imagine most social conservatives would have the vapors about their kids reading a book like Changing Bodies, Changing Lives--yet it's full of advice about self-respect, not being pressured into sex, waiting until you're really ready, the emotional aspects of sharing your body with another person, the physical and emotional risks, and so on.


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