Every week, I help out in an English class at a local high school. This week, the students’ schedule had changed and they had biology instead. Assuming it would be a good refresher and a chance to witness a different teaching style, I decided to join the class for their review of sexual reproduction.
Being that this is a Catholic school, they began the class with a prayer only to move right into the course material. I was shocked when I looked at the textbook and reaffirmed that I had heard correctly: they were talking about contraception. While both Spain and the US are technically secular states (though both have rather porous barriers between the separation of church and state, while the Spanish sexual education curriculum is moving forward, the programs in the US have been taking steps backwards, especially in states such as Texas.
I was not only surprised that today’s class included discussion about contraception, but that the material was incredibly clear (even in Spanish). Most of the sex education (or “Human Growth and Development” or “Health”) courses we took gave rather vague information about the personal aspects of sex and intimacy. The teacher for this class, contrarily, spoke freely not only about pregnancy, menstruation and biological aspects but also about how oftentimes sex is for intimacy and pleasure.
Additionally, she was sure to point out several times that it is not the only way to show affection and that there are other emotional, physical and sexual ways to do so. She also wove the importance of consent throughout the material and mentioned that sometimes you just don’t feel like having sex. In that case, you don’t have to have sex nor do anything that you don’t like. This point seems obvious, and while we did cover it in my sex ed courses in the states, it always presented the woman as a victim and the man as having an incredible amount of power. The point was discussed in a more casual way and gave an analogy that if you don’t like eating chocolate donuts, no one should make you eat a chocolate donut unless you want one. While I do not wish to undermine programs that teach students about rape and rape culture, this way of presenting essentially the same idea made it seem as though it should be simple and obvious instead of telling the female students that they must do certain things to avoid rape and that the male students should just learn to control their testosterone and their “urges” (everyone’s least favorite word in sex ed class).