How a lack of sexuality education contributes to rape culture

 

A three-part series by Rachel Armstrong

rape culture

Noun: rape cul⋅ture

a society or environment whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalizing or trivializing sexual assault and abuse.
“…a complex set of beliefs that encourage male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent. In a rape culture, women perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm . . . In a rape culture both men and women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life, inevitable . . . However . . . much of what we accept as inevitable is in fact the expression of values and attitudes that can change.” – Emilie Buchwald, author of Transforming a Rape Culture

“Rape culture includes jokes, TV, music, advertising, legal jargon, laws, words and imagery, that make violence against women and sexual coercion seem so normal that people believe that rape is inevitable. Rather than viewing the culture of rape as a problem to change, people in a rape culture think about the persistence of rape as ‘just the way things are.’” – definition of rape culture from Force: Upsetting the Rape Culture

Introduction:

Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.”  – Confucius

What constitutes a well-rounded education? Why do we teach kids what we do when we do? A well-rounded education encompasses every aspect of life, especially topics on personal well-being, such as social, emotional, and even sexual health. These are important topics that are often overlooked and forgotten, but they are arguably even more important than algebra or biology. Topics like these are what shape and mold who we are. Topics like these are what shape our future generations. They deserve to be taught – they need to be taught.

This series will take a closer look at sexual health and its role in our education, including how it is taught, why it is taught that way, and if it should be taught that way. I hope to show you how important this is, and how our lack of proper sexual education is one of the greatest contributors to the rape culture that is pervasive in our country.

I – A closer look at how sexual health is taught at ACA – and is it enough?

Rachel Armstrong

The ACA Charter Opinion Column
Every high school student needs to pass certain state standards in order to graduate. As a part of health, these standards also cover sexual health. At ACA, a majority of the health standards are covered by students separate from a class, either at another location, with their ES, or privately at home. Especially when it comes to sexual health, ACA’s unique setup seems to offer a large advantage, enabling students and parents to create a more personalized curriculum to include their personal morals and family principles. Having a class, although may seem unneeded, is critical in the development of our students.  In order to see both sides, first we must acknowledge what sexual education is, what it is not, what it should be, and what it should not be.

According to a recent survey of approximately 20 ACA students, 57 percent believe that teaching sex ed in high school contributes to preventing rape and domestic abuse while 43 percent don’t believe in a correlation. When asked to elaborate on why, many students said they didn’t believe there was a correlation because knowing about sex doesn’t prevent rape; “I feel that rapists/abusers know what they are doing is wrong, how can they not, so extensive knowledge of what they are doing won’t stop them from doing it.”

That is when a discrepancy became clear. It became clear that when thinking about sexual education, most people purely think of the biological aspect.

So what does a good sex ed class cover?

According to an anonymous survey of high school graduates, a well-rounded sexual education should have:

“physical knowledge as well as the emotional and spiritual components. I believe sexual education should teach about sexual health and not make fear (pregnancy, disease, etc) the central focus.”

“Full scientific information about human sexuality, physical and mental. Respectful presentation of moral obligations relating to sexual relations and pregnancy and children. Education about responsible choices for disease prevention. Practical information about the shared experience of sex between people and healthy expectations in a relationship.”

“A well-rounded sexual education is one in which facts about sex, sexuality, contraception, risks of disease and pregnancy, and what abuse is are all taught by teachers without their personal beliefs, opinions, or views inserted. I came from a Christian home and went to a public school where I received this well-rounded education I described above. I was also taught our personal and religious beliefs by my parents and I was able to make responsible decisions about abstinence without abstinence being taught by my school. I belief abstinence only education does an incredible disservice to high school students and leaves them wholly unprepared for real world sexual encounters/temptations.”

 

Sexual education does not

Talk just about sex and biology

Talk just about abstinence

Sexual Education should never

Slut shame

Body shame

Hetero-normalize  

Sexual Education does….

Include LGBTQ+

Talk about consent

Talk about rape and abuse

Talk about safe sex and STD’s

Talk about birth control and abortion

Talk about pregnancy

Talk about healthy vs. unhealthy relationships

Sexual Education always

Promotes healthy self-image

Promotes healthy relationships

Includes all orientations

Provides a safe environment

 

Why should we care?

We should care because it is part of our well-being as individuals and as a society.

It’s an important part of a well-rounded education

Sexual health is a part of health and plays a role in the lives of our students whether we like it or not.

Everybody deserves to understand their own body and biology

As well as how that relates to other’s body and biology.

There’s a gap

Few see sexual education as an important aspect of our education and even less acknowledge its place in ridding America of our deeply ingrained rape culture. This was clear in the survey of approximately 20 mentioned previously, that showed only 57 percent believe sex ed in high school contributes to preventing rape and domestic abuse, leaving 43 percent that believe there is no correlation. Choosing to not have a class deprives students of important information and deprives our community of an opportunity to make a difference.

This is a problem in our society and is, therefore, our problem at ACA as well, and it needs to be fixed. As a school that is raising and molding future generations, it is our responsibility to not only acknowledge a problem but be a part of the solution. Algebra and random historic dates are useless to our society if the people learning aren’t healthy and safe.

Drew Holland, the health teacher at ACA, said “a Sex Ed. class would be a great class option as an elective class.”

“At this point of time in our country, Sex Ed. may be as important as it has ever been. In today’s world, there are just so many platforms for the media, as well as the prevalent rise of social media, it’s tough for teens to not be bombarded with the sensationalization of sex, as well as just blatant misinformation. There are real risks someone takes when they decide to have sex, and it is important to be aware of those risks and know the facts and statistics related to them. A Sex Ed. class would be a healthy way for teens to receive information about a topic that isn’t always portrayed factually elsewhere in our society.” – Drew Holland

Sydney Heim, a senior at ACA, agrees that sexual education is important and says it “should be a mandatory class that starts at a young age”. “Sex Ed is one of the most important things to teach in school,” says Heim. “if we implement Sex Education (especially with consent) we can help prevent rape cases.”

Our lack of adequate sexual education leaves children creating their own, typically inaccurate and flawed, concepts about sex, sexuality, and gender. It is our responsibility to create a safe environment that allows students to grow in their understanding of every aspect of their life, and that includes their sexuality.

Gaye Chapman, a health teacher at Cleveland High School, said during an interview, “My hope is that it [sexual education] empowers my students to self-reflect and question where their own ideas surrounding sexuality and relationships comes from and become more secure and ‘sexually intelligent,’ as I like to call it.”

“It’s not about religion,” Chapman said “you still get to choose your own values. It’s about everyone choosing what’s right for them.”

In order to build a better future and a stronger generation, we need to first build a strong foundation, and that starts with education.

Disclaimer:  There are many things this article fails to cover relating to such a broad topic as sexual education. I hope to continue to add and cover certain areas in following articles.

A few things to think about:

Since rape isn’t about sex but about violence, does this argument still hold? What role does sexual education play?

Despite the importance of sexual education, often times it is not taught appropriately. Is it worth risking mandatory sexual health classes if the information students are getting might be inaccurate or biased? Can we afford not to risk it?

This article is part one of three

 

References:

Chapman, Gaye. In person Interview. January 20th, 2016

Culp-Ressler, Tara. “1 In 3 College Men In Survey Say They Would Rape A Woman If They Could Get Away With It.” ThinkProgress. ThinkProgress, 23 Sept. 2016. Web. 27 Jan. 2016.

Culp-Ressler, Tara. “Inside Federally-Funded Abstinence-Only Education: ‘Flushing Taxpayer Dollars Down The Toilet’.” ThinkProgress. ThinkProgress, 23 Sept. 2016. Web. 17 Jan. 2016.

Gordon, Peter. “Sexuality Education and the Prevention of Sexual Violence.” Web.

Heim, Sydney. Online Survey response. February 1st, 2017

PhD, David Satcher MD. “Sexual Health in America.” Sexual Health in America | Adolescent Medicine | JAMA | The JAMA Network. The JMA Network, 25 Aug. 2015. Web. 01 Feb. 2017.

Survey group 1, conducted January 21st – February 1st
Survey group 2, conducted January 21st – February 1st

One thought on “How a lack of sexuality education contributes to rape culture

  1. This is truly one of the most important topics for today’s youth. Thank you for taking the time to write such an intelligent piece that will hopefully make people consider their role in making this a common conversation, not a hidden one.

    Like

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