Imagine

It never ceases to amaze me – among the many, many things that constantly amaze me about living in the middle of a conservative backlash – that I got better sex ed as part of a state-mandated curriculum in VIRGINIA twenty years ago than most people in public schools anywhere get now. It wasn’t particularly insightful or feminist or anything (and at the time it seemed pretty limited), but it didn’t tell you that you were likely to die if you had sex outside of marriage, it didn’t lie about the effectiveness of birth control, it didn’t engage in slut-shaming or normalize “date rape,” it didn’t reinforce dangerous and out-dated gender norms, and it presumed that we would be making decisions about sex, so we best have a little bit of information to make those decisions with.

This Sunday the NY Times had a fascinating article about sex ed in a Quaker school in Pennsylvania that sounds like the best sex ed being offered in the country right now. Imagine treating sex as something pleasurable that also has some risks and teenagers as people with complex thought processes and desires, and then trying to figure out what kind of information will help them be happy with whatever decisions they make about sex.

Lots of things worth reading in the article, but I wanted to borrow the metaphor that Al Vernacchio, the teacher of the class, tries to instill in his students for talking about sex. Rather than baseball, he suggests pizza. Imagine what a difference it would make in our culture if we substituted two boys high-fiving in the locker room over “we agreed on mushrooms for the pizza last night” or “my girlfriend wanted mushrooms on our pizza last night” or even “I talked my girlfriend into trying mushrooms on the pizza last night” for “I got to third base last night.”

Pizza toppings are up for discussion and compromise, as you try to figure out a pizza order that will satisfy both people. There’s no shame attached to liking or disliking a particular topping. There’s no competition, no way to “win” at pizza ordering. And we’d all think it was pretty damn rude to order a pizza without checking in with the other person about what they wanted. Sounds like a pretty healthy metaphor to me.

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