The "Evidence-Based" Curricula with a Government Stamp of Approval

Yesterday, in my home state, VPR (Vermont Public Radio) did a show on Sex Ed. Of course they didn’t know longstanding Vermonter ME has been offering the Sexual Ethics for a Caring Society- Curriculum (the SECS-C) for years, most recently, as you know, to an AFS school in Monterrey, Mexico. Someone on the show said the state uses what the government suggests. And a commenter said, well, not really. You’d think so, but the sex ed students get is pretty pathetic. Sadly, even in the liberal state of Vermont, this idea that if the government slaps an "evidence-based" sticker on a curriculum it's a good one. Why in the world would we trust the government to tell us which Sex Ed curriculum to use???? Our students are more sophisticated than ever. Does the standard curriculum address this? Does it teach about pornography? media objectification? sexting? #metoo? Of course not. It's as if learning about anatomy and condoms and consent (making consent the be all and end all of ethical sex) make someone a "good"l sexual partner. The OWL has many of these topics but years ago when I tried to get my own son into an OWL class I was turned away. It's a UUA thing but you can buy their curriculum for $$$$ not the small donation SECS-C asks for. And, of course, we at SECS-C teach the applied philosophy necessary to get under the ethical skin of our students.

So what’s “evidence-based”? I hear that term a lot in academia as people test their various psychotherapies they’ve invented or re-invented. Evidence-based means that after the school delivers a curriculum they measure two or three things: was pregnancies decrease? STI’s? and did they have better attitudes about using contraception? Sure these are important. But as with psychotherapy approaches, just about ANY psychotherapy will produce positive results. So in sex ed, I’m arguing that basically ANY sex ed curriculum (except Abstinence Only) will produce results. These minimal results can be gotten in 2 or 3 health class lessons. SECS-C, though, is about deep change, asking students to think about who they want to be as sexual people in the years ahead, what they care about in society, what’s right, wrong, and in between about all sorts of things they’ll encounter that have to do with sex. And don’t get me started on those who boil ethics (right and wrong) down to consent. We need so much more than asking students to practice getting and giving consent. It’s a start. But, to repeat myself, we need so much more.

Listen to our new Sex and Ethics Podcast on Sex Education and hear me repeat myself. :) : https://sexandethics.podbea...

Sexy Halloween Costumes

For 10 years I've been getting calls from journalists around Halloween who want to do an article on sexy Halloween costumes for girls. This is because I was a co-author of the APA Task Force Report on the Sexualization of Girls and maybe because of the book co-authored with Lyn Mikel Brown called Packaging Girlhood. But this time I said NO! It just became one of those deals where journalists thought they were or pretended they were doing good, but in the end just put forth into the world more sexualized photos of girlhood. They just LOVED to illustrate their articles with the wildest costumes. So this year, when APA wrote and asked if they could send journalists to me to talk about sexy Halloween costumes, I wrote:  WHY give them the opportunity to unwittingly promote sexualization, to shock and titillate? In this period of enormous girl activism, why not suggest an article that goes like this: WHAT WILL THE NEW GIRL ACTIVISM INSPIRE THIS HALLOWEEN? Will it be girls in pantsuits? Girls with pink pussycat hats? Girls in Wonderwoman or Katniss Everdeen costumes? Girls who are more interested in scaring people (watch out sexual harassers) than pleasing them with pretty in pink? Queens not princesses? Let's hope! 


"Me Too" Campaign

 I am loving the new "Me Too" campaign that was a response to Hollywood actresses coming forth and talking about the sexual harassment they endured from Harvey Weinstein and others. Bravo to co-author Tomi-Ann Roberts (Sexualization of Girls Task Force Report) for telling her story too. What seems to be blogworthy about this campaign is the response to those who come forth. The responses sometimes seem inappropriate and as if the listener doesn't "get it."  To get it means that in this groundswell of "Me Too's" you realize that this is commonplace, the status quo, the little murders, if you will, that women have to endure throughout their teens and young adulthood.  When someone responds with hopes for "healing" or "I'm so sorry for your suffering" they are placing the writer in a victim category that medicalizes and personalizes the experience. It's as if the crowd shouting out that this is part of rape culture and has to stop, is reduced to a suffering individual who has PTSD and needs your empathy and support.  But the vast majority of women writing "me too" on Facebook are not suffering from PTSD; they are pissed! Angry! Irritated! And when they say "me too" almost all are speaking not of a single sexual assault, but multiple ones from the boob grabbing in middle school to the doctor who put his hand on your thigh when you went in for a sore throat to the guys whose method of seduction is to pull it out for your admiration to the attempted and completed rapes. Right now my research group is working on what bystanders did and didn't do in sketchy sexual situations, using the framework of the SECS-C (sexual ethics) to understand their reasoning. Yesterday we went through 200 short essays and 40 interviews. One could conclude at the end of it that men are creeps. But in these essays we read about women not helping other women because of their tendency to slut-shame, and upstanding men stopping a guy friend from doing something that's totally wrong. We read about women who called upon "girl code" to intervene, and men who talked back to the guy who called him a "bitch" and said "don't be a cockblocker." Toxic masculinity exists. But not all men inhale the poison air, and some women, even those who proclaim "me too" haven't stood up for other women.  But we're changing that now. Calling out these acts as BOTH all too common and UNETHICAL rather than damaging to women's self-esteem or body image or mental health is the way to go. It is plain wrong and yes, those who experience oppression and unethical acts do suffer mental health consequences, but the point is IT IS WRONG. And the antidote to toxic masculinity isn't feminism although that's good too, it's ETHICS, sexual ethics. And sexual ethics needs to be nurtured and taught, hence, the SECS-C! (You knew I'd get back to that, didn't you?) Thanks for reading.

Is Groping Sexual Assault? Taylor Swift says YES!

When stars use their stardom for something awesome like a benefit concert, that’s swell. And when they get an illness and use that opportunity to educate their fans on health and wellness, really terrific. But the Taylor Swift trial going on right now, August 2017, is awesome. Maybe she didn’t mean to make this so public but it’s public now, and after her mother got the radio talk show host David Mueller fired from his $150,000 a year job (get me out of academia!), he filed the first lawsuit and she counter-sued. As I understand it, when a publicity photo was being taken, he jumped in and felt her butt cheek from behind, under her dress. Just look at the photo. That’s where his entitled hand went. Swift froze in the moment like as most victims do, most likely thinking, “Is this really happening?” And perhaps she knew better to not yell WTF in the middle of a photo shoot given her middle school fans are always listening. Also, in that sort of a situation, the guy always wins, because he will jump away and pout and the world will say "boys will be boys," and in the end, he got away with something. But after he walked away, she discussed what happened with her team. And that’s when someone from the radio station was told about it. Because of a MORALITY clause in his contract, he was fired. Her lawyers asked to have the photo evidence sealed but it was leaked. They wanted it sealed I'm guessing because they didn’t want copycats, and most likely didn’t want disrespectful memes and more going around the internet.

SECS-C just loves that Taylor Swift can get a guy fired for this, that she can actually get “recovery” for damage and hardship, and that at this writing the judge threw out Mueller's lawsuit. Imagine what the world would be like if the rest of the girls and women around the world could sue every time a man groped them, which brings me to the title's question.  

Some opinion writer, there's always one, is saying that we shouldn't call a grope "sexual assault" because it makes more invisible the more serious sexual assaults that other women have experienced. I have sympathy for that argument because rape isn't taken seriously enough and a grope from a stranger typically isn't as devastating as rape. But if we don't call a grope a sexual assault, then there is no legal recourse for it. The law defines this as an assault and not Taylor Swift. And there ought to be legal recourse. There ought to be a way that men can't get away with this behavior and dismiss it as negligible.  Whether or not the damages are high or low, calling these kinds of things assaults and illegal protects all women.

And maybe I need to remind everyone that this is happening in an era where a guy who bragged about “grabbing pussy” is our president.  Hooray for that morality clause at that radio station. Would that our government's HR gave the president a contract with a "morality clause." Hooray for Taylor Swift showing that some women, when powerful enough, can call out a groper. Even if fans love you and you have  gazillion dollars in the bank, it’s still hard to publicly call out a groper. So hooray for her!  And bystanders? That’s where you’re needed. No matter how cool the victim, she needs you! In the moment AND afterwards!

Back to SECS-C --  the curriculum that teaches sexual ethics! Sure you can teach fellows not to grope women, that it’s wrong. But you can also teach them why it's wrong. And that is where respect for autonomy develops, where understanding privacy comes in, and where rape culture and entitlement are discussed. More sexual ethics in schools today. Contact us re the SECS-C.

Including Anal? Sex Ed Debates in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Senate is going to vote on bills today concerning sex education. I guess that this happens regularly when conservative senators want to stir up their constituents for conservative causes which may be harder to do in Massachusetts than elsewhere. Even conservatives are joining liberals against the recent Trump healthcare proposals so politicians need to rally their followers around something they can all agree on -- anal sex -- oops, I mean sex ed.

I have mixed feelings about Sex Ed curricula that try to educate about every which way sex can happen. By trying to say everything is normal, these sex ed programs are showing students that it is very important to pay attention to "what is normal" which is a question teens ask. And yeah they need some health information there or at least some web sites to go to for health information (many of which will be better than what their school sex ed teacher might know). But these conservative senators subtly seem to be saying that by talking about anal sex, they are introducing the idea to students, innocent students, guileless students who would never have heard of it otherwise. And with NO memory of the Virginity Pledge girls of a decade ago who chose anal over vaginal sex to protect their virginity, they are making the assumption that anal=gay.  

Students today will have seen and heard about a lot more than anal sex. It's not just from their porn viewing, but it's joked about in TV shows and movies they see, comedians' routines, youtube videos, all over their media. And @cindycreem, the state senator from Newton, was wise to add an amendment saying that all sex ed needed a media component. Absolutely. We've been teaching about media since Day 1 with the SECS-C, from media and objectification, media and sexual stereotypes, pornography, sexting. That's where sex ed needs to go.

Just for a final laugh, SenatorCyr "has offered seven amendments, including one calling for replacing language regarding 'the importance of effectively using' contraceptives with the words “how to effectively use” said contraceptives." Doesn't that make you just want to scream, "Get your hands off my sex ed?" 

Introducing the @SECS_C blog!

Just getting started blogging about the SECS_C. Note the underline instead of the hyphen to match with our Twitter account! OMG, there is so much to write about and will soon dig in.  The time if ripe in the U.S. to ask for a sex and RELATIONSHIPS curriculum. Seriously, health and prevention is important, but to treat sex education as primarily about preventing pregnancy, disease, and, well, sex? That's so minimal, and so wrong-minded. I will be writing about why MUTUALITY Is an aim for ethical sex, why CONSENT campaigns miss the mark, why sex ed needs to be taught by regular teachers in a high school and not the school nurse, and more. Thanks for stopping by and get ready for a rant or two, definitely some ethical philosophy (for that's the foundation of the SECS-C), and tidbits from inside the curriculum.