Why Sex Education is Important, Especially in the Philippines

I am personally getting tired of the whole RH Bill debate. It’s not that I feel like giving up on the cause (I am pro-RH Bill), but that the arguments for and against are degenerating into elementary-school quibbles. One of my pet peeve arguments from the anti- side goes as follows: “If children are taught about sex, they will be encouraged to have sex, and then we’ll have more teen pregnancies, which leads to more abortions, which will force God to send laser-shooting dinosaur angels to devour our heathen souls as punishment.” That last part is completely my own, but you can expect the same level of ridiculousness from some anti-RH Bill folk (a so-called “doctor”, for example, argues that sperm have souls because they have heads, which is indicative of their having brains which are the seats of consciousness, i.e. “souls”).

I’ll be the last to call myself an expert, but I can see how sex education, if done properly, can actually reduce the amounts of unplanned/teen pregnancies. It’s all just a matter of details.

See, people just don’t realize how clergymen in the Philippines make sex such an attractive prospect to the younger set. It’s the ultimate forbidden fruit: it’s considered one of humanity’s most divine (and pleasurable) functions, and yet it is a dirty, filthy thing to think about, let alone discuss. It’s why we live in a society where women think their vaginas are too dirty to touch, where sex is a taboo, and where adult innuendos abound in novelty songs that sound like they belong in children’s parties. Our mainstream music doesn’t have lyrics as explicit as that song telling listeners to “lick it now, lick it good,” but it’s perfectly alright for kids to gyrate to burly men asking if you can handle their “jumbo hotdogs”. It’s fun, but forbidden – and that’s what makes adolescents want it so much.

What this sort of situation glosses over, unfortunately, is what sex itself is. Many parents are too queasy to talk about such an atrocious subject with their children. Bring it up in the middle of a conversation, and you’ll be scolded for bringing up impolite things. You’re just expected to know everything about sex when you reach a certain age, even if nobody takes responsibility for telling you about it.

Hell, my personal sex education experience is laughable. I first heard the word “vagina” when I was in first grade, when a kid from my class answered the question posed on the blackboard: “How are babies made?” The teacher was immediately scandalized, and told my classmate to sit down and shut up. She then proceeded to talk about egg cells and sperm cells, which looked to me like eggs and tadpoles, respectively. I couldn’t stop thinking about my classmate’s answer, though. I knew I had a penis, but what was a vagina? I concluded that it was the girl’s boobs, because those were the things boys didn’t have.

It was a few years later when I finally found out what a vagina was. My busmate had brought a naughty magazine along with him on the ride home, and felt fit to share the pictures with us. It made perfect sense to me now – insert the penis into that slot underneath that hairy patch, pee because that’s the only thing that comes out of the penis and therefore must contain sperm, and the girl gets magically pregnant. You can imagine my surprise to see how wrong I was when I saw my first porn flick (a tentacle hentai, no less).

I never got the talk from my parents. The closest I ever got to it was being told to use a condom when I first announced I was in a relationship. That was during my second year of college (and I wasn’t even sexually active in said relationship).

I can’t be the only one in this country with that sort of experience. Somewhere out there, hundreds of teens are learning the ins and outs of sex from their hormonally-fueled peers and pornos, seeing how much reward there is to the act without being taught the many realities that come along with it. Our parents, teachers, elders and priests are all fine and dandy trying to help us maintain the illusion that sexual obliviousness equals spiritual innocence, all the while allowing us to learn about a fundamental aspect of our humanity from the most unreliable sources possible. It’s ridiculous to assume that an educational lecture on the topic in a controlled, academic environment would contribute to the decay of our morality more than what’s going on now.

This brings us to the meat of this admittedly-long piece: why sex education, one of the major provisions of the RH Bill, can make us all smarter about sex and reduce unplanned/teen pregnancies, and even make us more responsible about our sexual activity. You’ve read this far, so I’ll make it easier for you to read from here on by using numbered points:

1. Details Desexualize Sex

Try telling a fourth-grader how sex is performed. Odds are, the most common reaction is “Eeeww, I pee out of there!” They’re not going to want to try sex just because you tell them how it works; in fact, it might even discourage them for a few years. Things get even less sexy when you go into the details of gamete production and menstrual cycles.

2. It Doesn’t Clash with Religious Beliefs

Contrary to the beliefs of some anti-RH Bill folks, sex educators don’t go around telling students to have premarital sex. It’s fact-based education that explains in detail the inner workings of the human body, which many religious people believe is a temple of God. Sex itself is believed to be a spiritual union blessed by the Lord Almighty. For the religious, sex education is something that allows them to more fully appreciate this divine gift.

3. It Talks about Contraceptives, but Doesn’t Force Kids to Use Them

Another misconception running rampant is that knowledge about condoms makes people more promiscuous. We can make the following conclusions based on this logic: knowledge of sharp objects makes people more murderous, knowledge of stars makes people astronauts, and knowledge of wind patterns makes us windmills. Knowledge does not cause inevitable action.

In fact, knowledge about contraceptives is beneficial to people regardless of their stance on this issue. They can learn the pros and cons behind contraceptives, learn about success rates and side effects, and make an informed decision on whether or not to use them. Those who cry foul about contraceptive use increasing promiscuity, therefore increasing unplanned pregnancies due to contraceptive failure and the abortions that “inevitably” follow need to realize one thing: majority of contraceptive failures arise from improper use. In short, contraceptives fail because people don’t know how to use them. They don’t know how to use them because they were never taught.

4. The Realities of Sex Make Sex a Less-Attractive Prospect for the Unprepared

Other than the whole “Eeeeww” argument, there are two more details about sex that makes kids think twice about sticking their wee-wees into their hoo-hoos: pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs). Sex education doesn’t talk about the fairy-tale pregnancies that have women jumping for joy and giving birth without a hitch; it details the many ups and downs a woman can encounter while pregnant. Along with the happiness that comes about with bringing a new life into the world, there’s also a lot of nausea, vomiting, hunger pangs and mood swings. There are aches and pains and certain lifestyle prohibitions to ensure the developing fetus’ health. Feet are going to swell, breasts are going to hurt, and mornings are going to be a bitch. That’s not even mentioning the incredible costs incurred during and after a pregnancy, or the many responsibilities of parenthood.

STDs, on the other hand, can lead to rashes, pus-filled boils, and burning sensations. They can lead to the weirdest, most uncomfortable discharges from the worst places imaginable. They can kill. Even worse, they can make your life a long, agonizing spiral of worsening quality.

Now I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a single adolescent who genuinely thinks he’s prepared for all that.

5. It Teaches People to be Responsible about Sex

All this information, both the good and the bad, helps build maturity and a sense of responsibility. After all, having sex involves more than just the person himself; other people’s health and overall quality of life hang on the act. It may not force kids to use contraceptives or have sex, but it does force them to do one thing: think first. That’s what education gives us – the ability to consider the effects, costs, and benefits of our actions. Sex education will not lead to a collapse of morality, but an enlightenment of our humanity and our responsibility for the future.

This is only part of why I support the RH Bill; there’s thousands more to be said, but I haven’t got the luxury of time to write it all down. I hope that, in reading this, you see the merit of supporting the bill as well. If not, I respect your opinion nonetheless, and we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

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8 Responses to Why Sex Education is Important, Especially in the Philippines

  1. AC says:

    I agree with all of these points. After watching the ANC debate the other day, though, I felt that both sides weren’t really able to argue their points well. Simplistic arguments weren’t giving the right information. Points 3 and 4, for example, needed to be emphasized because the anti-RH bill panelists were giving all these slippery slope arguments about contraceptions = promiscuity = legalization of abortion = legalization of divorce. Very frustrating!

    (Sorry – long-time lurker, first-time poster. May I share this post?)

    • Marco says:

      Go right ahead! I’m glad I was able to somehow articulate some of the points you felt were missing from the debate. I wish I was able to see the show for myself so I could understand things better, though. Thanks for reading! 😀

  2. lupe says:

    As a Fil-Aus, it’s quite amusing how the parentals never gave me the talk but were happy to palm me off to the school to learn about it. I went to Catholic school for 13 years — 6 in an all-girls high school. From years 5 to 10, sex ed. had to be incorporated into our school’s curriculum (it got more in-depth as the years went on); our parents had to sign notes if they didn’t want us sitting in during that part of the class. We started with the reproductive system in year 5 to tests on STIs and forms of contraception in year 10. (PE was an elective in 11 and 12 but we were roped into a sex ed. session in one of those years.) The extent of sex ed. varied between schools, based on discussions I’ve had with friends from other schools. The public school kids definitely had a very comprehensive sex ed. experience (bananas on condoms, etc.). Going to an all-girl school we, instead, had an overweight lady trying to explain to us how to insert a diaphragm and we were also treated to a woman giving birth. (The moment you see the placenta fall out after the baby is the moment you scare teenagers never to know the touch of the opposite sex until well into marriage.)

    All joking aside, it was definitely beneficial. I learnt about what I had to protect myself from; the dangers of HIV/AIDS; preventing pregnancy, etc. Prevention is far better than what an unwanted preganancy will lead to later on (particularly in the Philippines). I have always been pro-choice when it comes to the abortion debate, but it shouldn’t have to come to that in the first place. I fall on Hillary Clinton’s line of thinking — abortions should be legal and safe but most of all they should be rare. Contraception will make sure abortions are rare (whether legally or illegally. Something to tell the anti-RH Bill advocates: MSI estimates something less than 2% of their services being used for abortion, the rest is on education, etc.) Don’t get me wrong, we still have teenagers getting pregnant, but I could only imagine how many more instances of this would have occured — and by extension how many more abortions would occur — if contraception wasn’t available and safe sex wasn’t taught in schools.

    • Wow, that Sex Ed. program seems like it’d please both sides in this country’s RH debate. It has everything the pros could ever hope for, plus it’s optional for people who are really against it.

      I agree that prevention is the biggest factor in reducing abortion rates. ‘What really gets to me is how some anti-RH Bill people equate the bill to being pro-abortion; it’s not, and that matter is explicitly stated in the bill. They like using the whole “contraceptives lead to promiscuity, which leads to unwanted pregnancies, which leads to abortion, which leads to the extinction of the Filipino race” argument, but people are going to be promiscuous regardless of their availability. Better to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies through contraception, since you’re never going to be able to reduce the number of people having sex anyway.

      Thanks for dropping by! I appreciate the insight. 😀

  3. Morbidfrank says:

    Can I share this post to my blogger/tumblr and facebook? I seriously need to enlighten some people. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. You were very articulate in expressing your opinion. 🙂 I think what is lacking to most Filipinos who are still anti-bill is the value of open-mindedness. Their method of reasoning is backwards. Contraceptives will not lead to promiscuity. The idea of safe sex will not lead or cause someone to just have sex to anyone. That’s not how people think. If a couple really wants to have sex, with or without contraceptives, they will. And the law will not… and will never compel anyone to do such act. What the bill is offering is an option… a choice.

  4. Isabelle says:

    Hello, may I share this with my theology class for a pro-RH bill debate? Thank you!

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