Yesterday, Camille Paglia offered a sober assessment of how America teaches sex in public schools. Much of what she said can easily be applied to the culture at large.
Evidently, Paglia is not talking about every school in every American school district. She is identifying at trend, one that seems to prevail more often than it doesn’t.
Coming from a lifelong feminist who has never been accused of prudery, Paglia’s views will shock some. They are not groundbreaking—many of them have even appeared on this blog—but considering the source, they are likely to be influential. It's only a matter of time before she is denounced by one or another Jezebelle.
Paglia begins by aiming at the greatest failure in American sex ed. It ignores fertility. One suspects that college courses about sexuality share the same failure.
Fertility is the missing chapter in sex education. Sobering facts about women’s declining fertility after their 20s are being withheld from ambitious young women, who are propelled along a career track devised for men.
Paglia is not the first and will not be the last to question the feminist life plan. Through a campaign of misinformation and social pressure, young women are being pushed to postpone marriage and childbearing in favor of career. Many of them discover, too late, that they have been conned out of their chance to have children.
Astonishingly, contemporary feminism has imposed a life plan that is better suited for men. Is this a sign of misogyny?
Instead of spending their time attacking Susan Patton for recommending that they marry young, women start doubting the feminist masters who have imposed a life plan that is more suitable for men.
Paglia offers a better direction:
Above all, girls need life-planning advice. Too often, sex education defines pregnancy as a pathology, for which the cure is abortion. Adolescent girls must think deeply about their ultimate aims and desires. If they want both children and a career, they should decide whether to have children early or late. There are pros, cons and trade-offs for each choice.
It needs to be said, and it especially needs to be said by a woman like Paglia. Regardless of one’s views on the politics of abortion, the American pro-choice movement treats pregnancy as a disease that can be cured by abortion.
By eliminating fertility, the sex ed industry has diminished female sexuality, in particular.
Paglia insists, correctly, that women have a right to make a free and well-informed choice. They might choose to pursue a career before they start a family. They might choose to find a husband in college. In either case, there are trade-offs.
Naturally, feminists have ignored the trade-offs. They have told young women that if they postpone marriage and family in favor of career, they will be more desirable as mates because they will be independent and autonomous feminists.
If you believe that, you will believe anything.
Since the realities of biology belie these assumptions, feminists have needed to browbeat women into following their life plan.
If sex educators believe that they are presenting scientific fact, Paglia begs to differ. As she sees it, sex education is not value neutral. It promotes political and cultural points of view. That is, its purpose is to indoctrinate as much as to inform.
It does so, Paglia continues, by suggesting that the sole or primary purpose of sex to obtain pleasure. Sex educators tend to reject the connection between sex and procreation because they believe that the link discriminates against those whose sexual preferences tend toward the non-procreative.
If you do not accept that all forms of sexual release are created equal, you are a bigot.
The victims of this ideology are, Paglia is saying, the girls who are being misinformed about their sexuality.
Similarly, public schools have no business listing the varieties of sexual gratification, from masturbation to oral and anal sex, although health educators should nonjudgmentally answer student questions about the health implications of such practices.
Paglia is correct, though one does not see how, in today’s America, schools are going to teach children the “health implications” of anal sex. They will instantly be denounced as bigots.
Sex education has triggered recurrent controversy, partly because it is seen by religious conservatives as an instrument of secular cultural imperialism, undermining moral values. It’s time for liberals to admit that there is some truth to this and that public schools should not promulgate any ideology. The liberal response to conservatives’ demand for abstinence-only sex education has been to condemn the imposition of “fear and shame” on young people. But perhaps a bit more self-preserving fear and shame might be helpful in today’s hedonistic, media-saturated environment.
More shame… where have we heard that before?
Early lessons in sex education tend toward exhibitionism. If the name of openness and honesty, schools show and tell children more than they need or want to know.
And they do it, Paglia emphasizes, in coed classrooms. Girls, especially are being taught to value immodesty. It isn’t too much to speculate that this tells children that sexting is not such a big deal.
Since very few people understand shame, allow me to elaborate Paglia’s point. More shame means more modesty, and more modesty means more desire.
Sex educators and a considerable part of American culture have been selling the idea that you can enhance sexual desire by exposing it on the public square. The notion is demented. Unfortunately, more exposure means less sensitivity to sexual stimuli. Desensitized young people are more likely to seek out more crude, rude and lewd forms of stimulation.
Anyone who thinks he is doing young people a favor by helping them to overcome their sense of shame knows nothing about shame.