Sisterhood Blog

What Sex Ed Should Really Teach

By Bat Sheva Marcus

  • Print
  • Share Share

Lo and behold, New York City has decided that sex education should be mandatory in public middle and high schools, and include instruction on condom use and guidance on the appropriate age for sexual activity.

According to The New York Times story about the change:

New York City’s new mandate goes beyond the state’s requirement that middle and high school students take one semester of health education classes. The city’s mandate calls for schools to teach a semester of sex education in 6th or 7th grade, and again in 9th or 10th grade.

Technically speaking it’s only formal sex education that is new in the public school system. Some schools already include some sex education in their health classes, though not all discuss how to prevent pregnancy and disease beyond HIV/AIDS, on which New York State began requiring classes in 1987. And informal sex education (that is, the sex education that happens between teens and in bathrooms) has been part of school life for years, as most parents in the know would confirm. You just can’t be a teenager who is let out of the confines of their home and not bump up against sex education of some kind, whether it is in the form of friends bragging, misinformation on bathroom walls or actually helpful information from your best friend.

As someone who deals with sexual issues on a day-to-day basis, I am a big fan of formalized sex education being mandated. Making sure our kids get accurate, thorough information from a trustworthy source: what a novel idea.

However sex education as it currently exists (and in the interest of full disclosure I will say I have not yet seen the NYC curriculum but am assuming it does not depart much from other curricula I have seen), should really be titled “Reproduction-and-How-Not-To-Get-Pregnant Education,” which in my book does not constitute the same thing.

Here’s the deal: Sex, in its best incarnation, is a pleasurable activity that is part of a normal, thoughtful life. It should be safe, fun, mutually agreed upon (when involving another person), emotionally honest and satisfying. But most sex ed curricula don’t deal with many of these concepts. They focus on safety and birth control, and leave out pleasure and joy.

There seems to be an unspoken assumption that sex is a “natural activity” that doesn’t need training. “Don’t worry about those young people with their over-active hormones. They will figure it out for themselves all too well,” I can just imagine a grumpy old lady in a flowered housedress mumbling to herself. Well, I have news for you. Yes. Sex is natural. Kind of like breast feeding… and as many breast feeding mothers will attest, they couldn’t have figured it out for themselves. They needed someone to explain, guide and teach them how to do it right. The same goes for sex.

If we want kids not only to get the message that sex is a positive, wonderful part of life but also that you need time, patience and some information to have a good sex life, we need to make it available. A good sex education curriculum should talk about women’s pleasure, clitoris and orgasm. A good sex education curriculum should discuss oral, manual and anal sex, not just intercourse as the norm. And a good sex education curriculum should include masturbation as both a natural activity and as a great way to learn one’s body.

Day in and day out, in my practice I see women who have suffered from the lack of available information or worse still, misinformation, old wives tales and ridiculous stereotypes, all of which undermine their ability to enjoy sex. Isn’t it time that things change? Sex education, when done right, can do exactly that.

Bat Sheva Marcus is the clinical director at The Medical Center for Female Sexuality in New York. She has a Ph.D. in Human Sexuality and dual Master’s Degrees in social work and public health.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Sex Education, Public Schools

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Ari Folman's new movie 'The Congress' is a brilliant spectacle, an exhilarating visual extravaganza and a slapdash thought experiment. It's also unlike anything Forward critic Ezra Glinter has ever seen. http://jd.fo/d4unE
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.