Earlier this week I had the honour to be interviewed on Sex City Radio! The episode has been transformed into a pod cast, which is available here. The description of the episode is:
Cordelia interviews three local women doing innovative (radical!) things in the world of sex education:
-Carly Basian is teaching teachers how to teach sex education in Ontario!
-Ola Monica Skudlarska holds workshops and talks about sex and mental health, and we'll be talking primarily about sex as a coping mechanism, and
-Tynan Rhea is facilitating workshops on sex during and post- pregnancy.
Hope you enjoy!
Well... This is an incredibly complicated situation: https://www.thestar.com/yourtoronto/education/2016/05/13/toronto-school-offers-sanitized-sex-ed-amid-parent-concern.html
I want to start off by saying that, in theory, it is good to see that schools are accommodating requests to "tone down" the sex ed curriculum for those who are uncomfortable with it. Ontario prides itself on academic accommodation for various reasons, so it is not at all surprising to see this is happening with the sex ed curriculum.
But, this situation is still troublesome.
Firstly, the language of "sanitized sex-ed" is incredibly problematic. Sanitized implies that the current curriculum is "dirty" and needs to be "cleaned up," which is not the case.
Secondly, who are these accommodations for? Parents. Who are we teaching? Not parents! Many students are curious about the new sex ed curriculum and are eager to learn. Of course, we must respect religious views and personal outlooks, but our curriculum is not offensive - it teaches students information that has been empirically supported (the revised curriculum was developed by experts in the field, including psychologists, experienced teachers and sex educators). Not to mention, a lot of the controversial topics (e.g. gender identity and sexual orientation) is something that is embraced and celebrated in Canada. We have laws protecting folks who identify on any part of the spectrum of sexual orientation and gender identity, so it is fitting to talk about it with our students - who are not exempt from falling somewhere along the aforementioned spectrum.
Instead of hiding behind the wrath of enraged parents by developing a "sanitized" curriculum, this should be an indication that there is a powerful opportunity to educate parents themselves - not only about the truth of the curriculum, but also the content. Why are parents so afraid to have their child use the word penis and vagina, two anatomically-correct words? That's an important question to ask, and an important conversation to have. When we teach about "private parts" instead of penis, vagina, vulva, etc., students still know exactly what we're talking about (not to mention it is important for them to have the vocabulary to take ownership of their body and seek help if incidents of sexual abuse occur).
“If schools ‘accommodate’ at this early stage in the game, they are setting themselves up for real battles later on, and the only ones who are going to suffer are the kids.”
"I Don't Flush" is a campaign to help create awareness around items that should not be flushed down our toilets (and drains). There are many personal hygiene products that unintentionally (or intentionally!) get flushed down our toilets. Some common products related to sexual health that SHOULD NOT be flushed include:
- Sanitary pads
- Condoms and condom wrappers
- (While not listed on the website), dental dams should not get tossed into toilets!
Share this with your students to create a dialogue on environmentally friendly (well, friendlier) ways to dispose of these aforementioned items. There are also environmentally-conscious items women can use during their period, such as the The DivaCup.
I Don't Flush: http://idontflush.ca/personal-hygiene-products/
I am very excited to get back into research mode and present my thesis work at the Support of Physical and Health Educators (OASPHE) conference (http://www.oasphe.ca/home.php?a=welcome). See my poster presentation below!
Today, April 13 2016, is International Day of Pink!
The Day of Pink is the International Day against Bullying, Discrimination, Homophobia, Transphobia, and Transmisogyny across the world. We invite everyone to celebrate diversity by wearing a pink shirt and by organizing activities in their workplaces, schools and communities.
How to get involved:
Encourage your friends to wear pink
Organize a flashmob!
I attended a very interesting session today on making university spaces more welcoming and diverse. At the start of the panel discussion, the facilitator said (paraphrased):
We should always strive to create safe(r) spaces for our students - to provide opportunities to engage in discussions on challenging topics. But, sometimes, it isn't possible to create safe(r) spaces when we are talking about certain things, like homophobia, or racism, or sexism, or any other phobias and "isms" that exist. Sometimes we have to create BRAVE spaces. It's okay to not feel comfortable all the time, as long as the conversation is managed and bravery is respected and honoured.
Food for thought of the day.
There has been some push back with the Grade 6 Human Development and Sexual Health curriculum. It is assumed that the topic of "masturbation" is discussed explicitly and even encouraged. This is not the case. The curriculum expectation in Grade 6 reads:
"Describe how they can build confidence and lay a foundation for healthy relationships by acquiring a clearer understanding of the physical, social, and emotional changes that occur during adolescence (e.g., physical: voice changes, skin changes, body growth; social: changing social relationships, increasing influence of peers; emotional: increased intensity of feelings, new interest in relationships with boys or girls, confusion and questions about changes)"
However, there is mention of "masturbation" in the teacher prompt, which acts as a guide to help teachers discuss the mandatory curriculum expectation. The prompt reads:
“Things like wet dreams or vaginal lubrication are normal and happen as a result of physical changes with puberty. Exploring one’s body by touching or masturbating is something that many people do and find pleasurable. It is common and is not harmful and is one way of learning about your body.”
I have my own interpretation of this teacher prompt. Puberty is marked by a (difficult and sometimes uncomfortable) time of change. Body pains and aches may begin, and the body undergoes rapid and unexpected changes. A way in which to better understand one's own body is to physically examine what is changing and how it makes them feel. This prompt is by no means encouraging students to engage in sexual behaviour, but rather acknowledges that it is perfectly normal to do so.
We need to start normalizing sexual health as it is a hugely important part of development and identity.
Best Practice Strategy for Teaching Sex Ed Series!
I am going to be posting different best practice strategies for teaching sex ed over the next few weeks.
Best practice strategy 1: Teacher comfort level
When teachers have more content knowledge about a given topic, in this case sex ed, the more comfortable you will be with the content. Let's use math as an example. If you don't know much about trigonometry, you will feel very nervous if you need to teach it, and as a result your teaching will not be as effective compared to a teacher who knows trigonometry and feels comfortable sharing it. The same applies to sex ed.
When teacher comfort level increases, students notice the shift - the class will be more relaxed and open to conversation. You will be less nervous and more prepared to enter topics you may have originally knew little about (and no one likes to feel under prepared!)
Set a goal for yourself to look up a different sexual health resource every week and build a repertoire of resources you can use to support your own sex ed learning, and in turn help your students!
Two of my personal favourite online resources are Planned Parenthood ("Learn" tab - https://www.plannedparenthood.org/) and SexualityandU (http://www.sexualityandu.ca/). Click on a different topic every week and learn something different about human development and sexual health!
Next best practice strategy will be posted this week.
On Wednesday, November 18, Alexander - founder of Ride For A Dream - Lavinia (who also works for Ride for a Dream) and I co-facilitated a really powerful workshop on unpacking feminism and masculinity at Ryerson University. The most powerful take-away message I had from this experience was that ideas, social norms and gender norms get embedded into our gender identities at a very young age. Many of the participants in the workshop talked about how, as kids,they learned that their "utility" was the primary defining feature of their masculinity, while female participants talked about how compliance and obedience was expected of them.
I think that having discussions with students, starting in primary grades, about what they think it means to be a "boy" or "girl" could be very powerful. We have to break down and unpack the expectations and pressures we assign ourselves based on our gender. Gender is fluid and should not prescribe the way we behave or the things we do. If we unravel these ideas at an early age, hopefully it will create more equitable, inclusive and safer communities.
My Sex Ed is rebranding with a new logo - MSE. We will still be offering the same events and resources, but wanted to change up our image a bit.
Thanks for your ongoing support with this new venture!