Sun, Nov 25, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Sex ed must aid youths' growth and knowledge

By Kao Sung Ching 高松景

A set of sexual education materials has been the focus of much public concern recently ("Porn without sex ed can mislead," Nov. 22, page 2). In fact, sexual education disseminates not only knowledge, but also a set of values concerning sex. Also, it is not about sexual positions so much as it is about the nature of a healthy relationship between the sexes.

This is precisely why the government prohibits those under 18 years of age from viewing pornographic media, as the sexual relationships portrayed therein are often unhealthy and twisted; featuring rape, incest, irresponsible behavior, exaggerated duration of intercourse and the objectification of women.

Obsession and indulgence in pornography can have unhealthy effects on teens. It can potentially encourage irresponsible sexual acts, instill misguided concepts about rape and disrespectful objectification of women and provide unhealthy stimulus leading to unnaturally intense sexual urges.

However, laws cannot function in isolation, and one-sided, dogmatic forbiddance not only has very limited effect, but also goes against the basic principles of education, contributing little to students' growth and knowledge.

A survey on the viewing of pornography among teenagers conducted by the Mercy Memorial Foundation commissioned by the Department of Health's Bureau of Health Promotion found that 65 percent of those aged 11 to 24 have viewed pornography. Of these, 15.3 percent of upper-grade primary school students, 38.1 percent of junior high school students, 69.3 percent of high school students and 79.4 percent of university students have seen pornography.

The Department of Health confronting the problem by commissioning the Mercy Memorial Foundation to develop a sexual education curriculum designed to uncover pornography and to teach students how to make their own sexual decisions uninfluenced by pornography. The course is intended to foster critical thinking about pornography.

The basic design concept of the curriculum begins with the intimate relationship between the sexes and leads students to examine the unhealthy interactions between sexual partners in pornographic material to train their critical faculties. Finally, it allows students to acquire perspective on the nature of intimacy between individuals -- that a healthy relationship is based on the expression of love, concern and kindness to one another.

Based on teaching materials designed for German children, the first segment of the curriculum for primary school students answers basic questions such as "where do I come from?" using lovable cartoons to portray the intimate relationship between parents. These cartoons clearly convey that every student is the product of their parents' love for each other. For this reason, the fact that the cartoons are extremely cute and wholly nude, as reported by the media, does not make it "pornographic." It is rather a healthy approach to building children's concept of sex.

In reality, whether something is pornographic has nothing to do with the level of nudity. Full nudity is not necessarily pornographic, while, conversely, much pornography is not entirely nude. The differentiation between pornographic and non-pornographic depends on whether the intimate relationship expressed is founded upon love.

Of course, how sexual education is taught is more important that what is taught. The results of this sexual education curriculum depend on the ability of teachers to make adequate use of resources. Hence the training and cultivation of future educators will be key.

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