Thursday, May 12, 2005
UUA-UCC sex ed curriculum in the news.
Bella English writes in today's Boston Globe about the vogue among teenage boys for online porn. She talks to alarmed parents, adolescent psychologists, and boys and girls about the phenomenon — including a dozen eighth- and ninth-grade Unitarian Universalists enrolled in the "Our Whole Lives" comprehensive sex-ed program developed by the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations and the United Church of Christ.
Aside from the fact that many liberal parents might be assumed to give their kids a bit more freedom in using the Internet, there's no reason to believe that the responses of these UU teens are especially unusual. Which is disturbing:
If adults are worried about children's constant exposure to pornography, the kids themselves don't seem too concerned. Hard-core porn has apparently gone mainstream. "All the boys do it," says one eighth-grade girl. "They kind of brag about it."
Another girl says when one friend, a boy, showed her a pornographic website, she scolded him: "Dude, that's gross. It totally objectifies women." The boy replied that it was "artistic."
The girls were among a dozen eighth- and ninth-graders interviewed recently by the Globe, along with boys of the same age, in separate sessions, at First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church in Bedford. The teens are participants in a comprehensive sex-ed curriculum created by the Unitarian Universalist Association called Our Whole Lives.
All the boys interviewed said they had seen Internet porn that included heterosexual, gay, and group sex. "Even if you're not looking for porno, you get it," says one boy. "You need a pop-up blocker."
I co-taught the predecessor to "Our Whole Lives" to seventh- and eighth-graders in Salt Lake City almost ten years ago. That program, which was called "About Your Sexuality," was controversial for its use of explicit slides showing a variety of sexual behaviors. Not having been a UU teen myself, I was astonished at first by the candor of the curriculum, but quickly appreciated how successfully it answered questions and helped kids make responsible and informed decisions. One of the things that impressed me was that the program's non-stylized photographs defied the conventions of pornography, giving the kids a much more mundane idea of how couples make love. "Our Whole Lives" does not use photographs, which in some ways is too bad. English writes:
Adolescent curiosity about sex is normal. What experts fear about Internet pornography is the constant bombardment of violent and degrading images, which can skew boys' attitudes toward girls and can lead to earlier sexual behavior.
"What is a relatively normal thing is turned into an abnormal thing," says William Pollack, a psychologist and author of the best-selling book "Real Boys," who runs centers for men at McLean Hospital in Belmont. "Boys are looking for a normal aspect of what girls look like, biologically, but they're getting this hard-core movie-industry type of material. If they didn't have an interest in it before, they are drawn into a world that goes beyond the normal curiosity." . . .
Indeed, notes Pollack, most of the porn sites don't offer "the normal female body"; those soft-porn sites you have to pay for. "The most abnormal, the most bizarre, is what you get for free," he says. "It gives boys a completely objectified, diminished, and bizarre view of what the female body is, and what relationships between females and males are about.["]
Psychologist Cate Dooley, who works at both Brandeis University and Wellesley College, agrees that pornography disrupts relationships. "The bottom line is, it's moving away from emotional intimacy, and that's dangerous ground," Dooley says. "Boys don't learn how sex comes out of friendship and emotionally intimate relationships. Boys and girls are losing that in our culture, and I think it's a crisis."
Dooley, too, is bothered by the cavalier attitude of girls, who seem to accept that boys look at porn. "At least in a marriage, if the wife is unhappy about her husband downloading porn, she can bring him into therapy," she says. "But for girls this is just the way it is. There's no consequence for boys."
("The Secret Life of Boys," Bella English, Boston Globe 5.12.05, reg req'd)
Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 12 May 2005 at 8:43 AM