BDSM and Sex Education

A school district in California has come under fire recently for using a textbook that references BDSM in its ninth grade sex education classes.  Intrigued by the prospect, I threw this question out to Facebook and Twitter:

Interesting question, do niche elements of sexuality like BDSM have a place in HS health classes?

Unsurprisingly my liberal-leaning friends, many of whom are BDSM practitioners themselves, responded positively.  A little personal history.  I started experimenting with BDSM, rope bondage in particular, on myself when I was 14 or 15 years old.  I was pretty safe about it and I only got myself temporarily stuck once and even that was in a relatively safe position, but not everyone takes the same precautions I did.  Not everyone knows to take the same precautions.

This is something that teens of this age are already doing.  Having less information does not help them, it harms them.  More to the larger point, BDSM is undeniably an aspect of human sexuality and although it may in practice be a niche one, scenes of Domination and submission consistently rank among the top fantasies for men and women.  In fact they’re so common that some of those lists split Domination, submission, bondage, and humiliation-oriented acts into their own separate categories.

Sex is not a purely physical act.  Students are told this constantly and yet this fact is only ever used to impress upon them the benefits of waiting to have sex.  When discussing sex itself, advice pretty much boils down to don’t get an STI, and don’t get someone pregnant / get pregnant.  Teaching students how to navigate the physical component is fairly common.  Teaching students how to navigate the emotional components is almost nonexistent.

BDSM, as it deals with power dynamics, trust, and emotional and sexual compatibility (and these things are present in all healthy relationships), is only one aspect of this.  BDSM is the focus of the article and the backlash because it’s a controversial and succinct term that will garner a large response, but it’s only one aspect of the emotional component of sexuality.

If you’re going to accept that teens are having sex (you should), and you’re going to prioritize keeping them physically safe in discussing contraception, then you also need to prioritize keeping them emotionally and mentally safe by having a serious discussion on what sex is and how it can be emotionally fulfilling in a variety of ways.

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About Alex

I am awesome.

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