Big question: What should US schools teach in sex-education classes?

In “Beyond Yes or No: Consent as Sexual Process,” Rachel Kramer Bussel discusses consent that “isn’t concerned just with whether your partner wants to have sex, but what kind of sex, and why” (Bussel 44). According to Bussel—and I agree with her argument—couples need to openly discuss what kind of sex they enjoy. Unfortunately, I think this idea is largely ignored in American sexual educational. In my experience—and from what I hear, many others’ as well—sex-ed in the US is grounded in a basic principle: practice abstinence, but if you have sex, use a condom and don’t rape someone. This grossly simplistic foundation ignores dimensions crucial to relationships. Simply using a condom and having baseline consensual sex does not ensure that both members of the couple will be satisfied.

However, other countries take a more comprehensive approach to sex-education. In the Netherlands, sex-ed curriculum focuses not only on safe sex, but also on communicating effectively in a relationship about both sexual and emotional needs. The curriculum discusses sexual diversity, a topic barely if at all mentioned in my own sex-ed classes. I think the Dutch approach is a much healthier (not to mention effective; the Netherlands has one of the lowest unintended teen pregnancy rates in the world) approach to sex-ed, and the US would benefit from incorporating some of the Dutch curriculum into its own.

Rachel Kramer Bussel. “Beyond Yes or No: Consent as Sexual Process.” From Yes Means Yes! Visions of Female Sexual Power & A World Without Rape edited by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti. Seal Press: New York, 2008.

http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/resources/pdf/TBR_InternationalComparison.pdf
Source: United States: Martin, J.A., Hamilton, B.E., Sutton, P.D., Ventura, S.J., Matthews, T.J., Kirmeyer, S. & Osterman, M.J.K.. (2010).Births: Final data for 2007. National Vital Statistics Reports,58 (24). Other Countries: United Nations Statistical Division. Demographic Yearbook 2007. New York: United Nations.

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