Tying back in, somewhat, with Monday’s post on debunking theoretical myths about condoms, let’s talk about that pervasive issue: the people (who you rarely actually have in your classroom) who think that if their partner (who you do have in your classroom) requests a condom, it means that the partner is cheating. Or that they suspect the person of cheating. The issue, of course, is that this isn’t just a myth, it’s far too real for far too many young people.
I wish I could tell you that you can tell your students the real answer: That if a partner or a potential partner is pulling you away from health (emotional, physical, sexual, any kind of health), then they aren’t respecting you and you should summarily dump them. I wish telling your students that would work.
I wish telling your students that they must wear condoms would work too. And that if you told them that
they had to brush their teeth and follow the true voice in their heart and not let it be corrupted by any of a wide number of influences that would work.
I wish that I had a recipe of language and activities that could take the pain out of your students’ lives, sexual and otherwise.
But I don’t. And nor do you. It is the reality of the sexuality educator that we must sit with our students in their sexual and relationship based pain. Aside from the occasionally humorous, “Can I just show you this picture of my penis/vulva/breast so you can tell me what I should do about it?”, students come to us because they don’t know where else to go.
“My partner choked me until I passed out, but I liked the choking, but I wish he’d stopped when I passed out, but he didn’t and I fell through glass, but I love him, so don’t tell me to break up with him, so what do I do?”
“I can’t handle hormonal birth control, but my partner won’t use condoms, but I have to have sex with him or he’ll break up with me, but I love him, so don’t tell me to break up with him, so what do I do?”
It is not always a boy who is the one who is being physically or emotionally manipulative, not by far. These are just two recent stories from students, and they happen to be about boys.
So you sit and you listen and you listen and you listen. That’s really where one of our greatest potential influences comes from. If we are blessed with the sort of job that allows us to listen hard enough, long enough, students sometimes learn to listen to themselves. That is the greatest breakthrough, really. Too many young people have never been listened to. And without that, how would they ever learn to listen to their own thoughts, feelings, and needs?
Until then we include in our classroom conversations that yes, if someone doesn’t have your highest degree of sexual health in mind, they’re probably not ready to be sexual with you yet. If whatever you find to be important, they aren’t willing to be supportive of, they’re not ready for a physical connection as potentially beautiful and potentially painful as sex.
It is a stop-gap measure, this classroom message, and sometimes the best we have to offer. I wish we had more.
I’ve decided that it’s Condom Week around here at Unhushed. Melissa White over at Lucky Bloke recently asked if I wanted to provide content for her new safer sex education website, and of course I was delighted! But when I went back to look through my blogging archives (both here and at www.unhushed.net/blog), I found that I had written terrifyingly little about condoms. So here I am, rectifying that problem with Condom Week, on both sites. Here at KarenRayne.com I’ll be writing about teachers and other educators’ issues about condoms in the classroom. At Unhushed.net I’ll be writing about parental concerns about condoms. Interested in receiving KarenRayne blog posts as they happen? Sign up here. You can sign up to receive Unhushed blog posts here.