I was under no illusion I was going to single handedly convince the Mesa Public School District their conservative, abstinence-based curriculum was outdated, backwards, and offensive. Especially because I’d only been appointed to a committee with the very specific (and relatively minor) job of approving new videos to be used to aid the instruction of curriculum with guidelines that were put in place 30 years ago. But, if we all stay home and say nothing, the crazies with the loudest voices win, right? So I put on my big girl pants, prepared my voice of dissent (and myself to be hated), and I went to the committee meeting.
It went both better and worse than I expected.
Committee member who is a medical doctor and grandfather of students in the district: In the first video, I’m not comfortable with the term “lips” used in place of “labia” when they are identifying the female anatomy. It’s slang. They should use the proper terminology.
Female Sex Ed Instructor for MPS: OK, that makes sense. We can make that edit to the video. Anything else?
Me: Well, I mean if we’re talking about that video and the specific terminology, I have to say, I thought it was really strange they identified all of the anatomical external and internal parts of the female reproductive organs EXCEPT for the clitoris. Like, they just skipped over it. What was that about?
Sex Ed Lady: Oh, that was there, but we edited it out.
Me: …WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT???
Everyone else: Yeah, why would you do that?
Sex Ed Lady: We’ve never been able to get it approved before.
Conservative Male Committee Member: It’s anatomy. I don’t know why we’d take out anatomy.
Doctor dude: As long as we use the technically correct terminology, I’m fine with it.
Me (only in my head, because it seemed to be going my way and it felt like a bad idea to go rogue so early and risk turning the conservative vote against anything I said going forward): What could possibly be offensive about that particular part of the female anatomy? Is it because it’s largely responsible for a female’s physical sexual pleasure? Why would this be a taboo concept? Are we afraid informing them sex actually feels good to women will derail the rest of the brainwashing? Have you tried not telling the boys they have a penis? Seems like the same logic.
Sex Ed Lady: So I should put it back in?
Everyone: Yeah. You definitely should.
Sex Ed Lady: What did we think about the video on The Dangers of Sexting?
Everyone: It was pretty good.
Me: I thought it was a little female-heavy. It’s pretty much all about how girls shouldn’t send naked pics-
Sex Ed Lady: “Nudes.” The kids refer to them as “nudes.”
Me: OK, it’s about how girls shouldn’t send nudes and boys shouldn’t forward them on because everyone will go to jail and regret it for the rest of their lives. But what about unsolicited dick pics? That’s a weird kind of harassment going on right now (at least according to my friends who online date). It also needs to be addressed, if we’re talking about the pitfalls of sexting, don’t you think? Do you talk about dick pics?
Several committee ladies: *giggle at the term “dick pics”*
Sex Ed Lady: I go over that in the class discussion.
Committee member mom-type: Do you call them that?
Sex Ed Lady: No. Let’s move on.
Mom Lady: I liked the Flirting or Hurting video. I thought it was nice that it showed the kids examples of what is appropriate contact and what is harassment.
Me: I thought that one was fine, except for the scene where the girl goes online and makes some kind of a Facebook page about the boy who blew her off, called Zach is a LOSER, and she writes that he’s “SO GAY!!”. This is only addressed as a “cruel insult” by the narrators. The boy’s sexuality isn’t in question, or a part of the video, and the narrators don’t label it as hate speech. As it’s used, it’s a slur and shames gay kids. It needs to go.
Super Conservative Mom who I feel like was only agreeing with me because she wanted any reference to homosexuality removed, regardless of what it was: Yeah, can’t you just take out that screen shot? Or blur it?
Conservative Dude: Well, I mean, that’s a realistic insult kids use, isn’t it?
Me: Yeah, but they aren’t addressing that it’s insensitive to gay people to use it that way. They’re actually supporting that he should feel bad about being referred to as gay.
Sex Ed Lady: Ok, so I’m going to take out the racist reference, anything else?
School Nurse sitting next to me, under her breath: Uh, it wasn’t a racist thing, right?
Me, also under my breath: No, but I think she knows what to take out. I hope.
Sex Ed Lady: And the final 7th grade video? The Five Essential Habits of Healthy Teens?
Doctor dude and his doctor wife: We couldn’t watch that one, our disk was corrupted.
A couple of other committee members: Us too.
Mom type: I watched it, and my problem with it is that it does a lot talking about ‘healthy eating’ and how fast food is bad, and my daughter has struggled with anorexia, and she doesn’t need to go to school and be subjected to more propaganda suggesting she should be restrictive about her eating.
Everyone else in the room: *uncomfortable and unsure silence similar to when I speak about anything*
Sex Ed Lady: Ok, I can see how that would be problematic. Does anyone else who was able to watch this one have any opinions on it?
Me: I watched it. I thought it was fine, but I don’t understand why it was included in the sex-ed curriculum. It has literally nothing to do with sex or relationships in any way. It’s mostly about eating properly, exercising, and making sure you’re hydrated. It really added to my general concern that the sex ed curriculum is less medical information and more morality training. We don’t teach that you shouldn’t overdo it on junk food in Driver’s Ed. Listen, I don’t want to take up too much time, because I know we aren’t here to debate the current guidelines, but I’m on this committee because I’m not happy with the way Sex Ed is being taught in this district, so I feel like I need to make my viewpoint clear. The concept that choosing abstinence before marriage is the ‘right’ way to live is a moral opinion; one that I do not share, and that I do not feel my kids should be subjected to in a public school setting. I am against using fear and shame to teach sex ed.
*more uncomfortable silence*
Conservative dude: Legally, kids aren’t allowed to have sex, you know.
Doctor dude: Also, if we’ve decided, as a community that teaching abstinence is the safest thing for them, then that’s what-
Me: You know there are studies that show abstinence based sex ed DOESN’T result in fewer-
Sex Ed Lady: OK! Well, why don’t we just take this video completely out. I mostly just had it in because sometimes we go to schools and they have an assembly day and we have extra time to kill with the kids. And just having them do study hall usually doesn’t go that well… so let’s just take it out.
(Stay tuned for Part III. I promise it’s the finale.)