Friday, June 4, 2010

Explaining sex to a 10 year old--the Cabral way

How will you explain sex to a 5 year old? By telling your kid that she was once a sperm which wiggled its way to the ovary and for the next nine months, was able to develop as a baby? Is this the way to prevent unwanted pregnancies; by scientifically explaining to a teenager how copulation brings about ovulation?

This is how Health secretary Esperanza Cabral wants to curb the rising numbers of unwanted teenage pregnancies. Cabral, in justifying her very controversial sex education policy, says that the state has the responsibility of figuring out the solution to this societal problem.

True, the state indeed, by the parents patriae principle, has the foremost responsibility and duty to its citizens to protect it from harm. This fact is unassailable. No one is questioning the duty of the state to protect its citizens from a worsening social problem.

The question really is—is the health department the right agency for the job? Unwanted pregnancy is a social problem, not a health problem. Sex is not a disease. Sex is not a virus which you wanted expunged from the face of the earth. How in the world do you solve a socially-related problem with a condom?

Cabral says the reason for the rise of unwanted teen pregnancies is simply the lack of knowledge about sex. The Cabral solution is simple—teach very young kids what sex is. Sex is, by Cabral’s definition, is a means of procreation which undergoes stages. Prevent one stage from happening, you prevent unwanted pregnancy. The ounce of cure which the health department wants? Educate the kids on the menstrual and ovulation cycles. That is how to curb “unwanted” pregnancies.

If, indeed, the problem lies on lack of knowledge, would it be more appropriate for the Education department to be the lead agency instead of the health department?

Is there a definitive study which shows that sex education really led to a decrease in the incidence of teenage pregnancies? Will a 5 or a 10 year old kid prevail himself from engaging in sex after undergoing a semester learning about the “science” behind sex? Are we intending to develop citizens with the “scientific knowledge” about sex or do we intend to develop responsible citizens? Is equipping kids with scientific knowledge be enough to deter them from engaging in sex shortly afterwards?

Our approach to the problem is faulty. We want to solve a social problem by scientific means. When the state says it wants kids to know what sex is, it simply says that it wants kids to know either of two things: when to have sex and when not to have it based on sexual cycles. This is wrong.

Look at the sex education modules that the health department has distributed to the schools. It shows the sex organs of both the female and the male. It includes information about sperms, ovaries, fetuses and the like. And it includes the cycles which a sperm undergoes before it develops into a fetus.

When you explain this to a kid, is it the right way of orienting him and developing him to be a responsible person? No. You simply told him that for pregnancies not to occur, you have to do it prior or after your partner’s menstrual period. Will this prevent kids from experimenting and doing a “scientific inquiry” later on?

When you explain to a kid what sex means, his curious mind will wander about and in due time, he will experiment with it. Inquiry is part of science right? How will you explain sex to a kid without properly showing him, not just the sexual organs or how the sperm reaches the ovary—you have to explain the “process” of why the sperm came to that vaginal canal in the first place. Will explaining that even deter teenagers from, again, doing a “scientific” inquiry?

For years, our education department has been implementing a course on sex education. I, for one, am a “graduate” so to speak of such a course. But, did it deterred or prevent me from engaging in consensual, out-of-the marriage, sex? No.

The issue really is neither a health nor an education-related. This problem of unwanted pregnancies is economically related and time-based. Why do we treat this as a problem? Because it is “unwanted” and occurred at a time when the person or person(s) affected is/are incapable of raising a family or even acting as a parent. That is the problem we are desperately trying to resolve.

This problem cannot be solved by suggesting to kids to use condoms or contraceptives, no. Neither can we solve it by telling them how many months it takes the sperm to develop into a fetus nor the period when it is safe to copulate.

We can solve this by conditioning the minds of our kids that sex only happens at a proper time, and this is when they have reached maturity and financial stability, or if we inject religious or morality into it, within the confines of marriage.

The state should change its mind-set or its learning paradigm by shifting focus—from scientific to non-scientific. By teaching less of the ovary and more of educating kids or teenagers about responsibility. By educating our teenagers when to build a family instead of when not to have sex.

Sex is a primal need. You can't curb it. You can't prevent it. It will happen in one's lifetime. What is important is for the state to develop citizens who actually know when to engage in it in a responsible way, and this is a duty not of the DOH but by other agencies of government.

***by the way, the reason why Cabral is actively engaging herself in this is simply promote the use of condoms or contraceptives.