A teenage student in Singapore posted to Facebook about the amazingly terrible sex education her school is teaching last week. To no one's great surprise, the sexist, rape-culture-y so called "educational" materials were created by Focus on the Family, the Colorado Springs-based bastion of archaic values. I'm not sure what they think is valuable about suggesting that no just might really mean yes.
Teenager Agatha Tan, who studies at Singapore's Hwa Chong Institution, wrote an impressive take-down of her school's awful approach to sex ed: impressive because of its maturity, its logic, and the level of calm Tan manages to maintain throughout it despite being directly subjected to this intellectually bankrupt, super-stereotyped excuse for education. Her post is complete with photographs of the oh-so-offending materials, which imply that girls can't be trusted to say what they mean whereas guys are always straightforward and honest in return. Young women, the pamphlet indicates, need to feel loved, while young men need to feel respected; girls are "emotional" and boys are "visual". (Teenage girls aren't visual creatures? Someone tell that to the Indiana Jones poster that hung on my bedroom wall all four years I was in high school.)
As Tan wrote about the four-hour session that flogged threadbare gender stereotypes and dismissed student concerns about LGBTQIA issues:
By engaging the services of groups such as FotF to teach sexuality education in school, the management hence indirectly participates in promoting rape culture, tells students that we should conform to traditional gender roles instead of being our own persons, demonstrates that the acceptance of diversity in people is unimportant, and erases minority groups in the student population.
It's great to know that there are teenagers out there who are able to see clearly through the thin veneer of sex ed respectability covering this sad excuse for a sermon, and that the traction Tan gained with this Facebook post got Hwa Chong to drop any future sessions of this awful class. Tan sounds like someone I wish I knew, and she sounds about eight hojillion times more engaged and socially responsible than I was as a high schooler. (I was busy mooning over that Indiana Jones poster, okay?!) But it's ridiculous that we're still wasting the time of amazing young people like her with lessons about how girls are silly, clingy Relationship Koalas that flounder helplessly without the emotional support of boys, who happen to be crazed sex monsters that the girls must instruct in the ways of abstinence and maturity.
Shaunti Feldhan, the author of the (un-)educational materials wrote a letter to a Singaporean newspaper in response to justify her work, which for some reason hasn't garnered quite as much attention as Tan's Facebook post:
At those events, Jeff and I shared the results of our many years of rigorous research, as published in books such as For Women Only and For Men Only as well as the teenage versions that were based on extensive studies with high school and college students.
As far as I can tell by perusing her website, her "extensive studies" entailed a single 400-person survey (of heterosexual youths only, of course) for each of her books. Rigorous indeed, especially when everything she's written sounds as if she had a religious agenda in mind first and shaped her survey and its responses to fit.
Attitudes like Feldhan's still prevail in many places in society, and standing in front of a classroom to tell young people that men and women are fundamentally different and mysterious to one another does no one any favors. And adding a dose of "no means yes, maybe?" rape apologia to the mix is utterly irresponsible. For anyone popping a rage-boner over positive consent, "yes means yes" legislation being passed in California, well, the fact that garbage like this is not only still believed but also taught in schools is exactly why that kind of thing is needed. Listen: young men and women are not from different planets, and if you don't believe me, read the rest of Tan's Facebook post, because she sounds more down to Earth than most other people I know.