For as long as something is shrouded in mystery, there will be a need for the adolescent mind to desire to conquer it as it seems taboo, or rebellious. What is more appealing than non-conformity to the rebellious teenage mind? If that something is sexual activity (within everyone’s physical capacity), no amount of parental policing will stand in the way of curious, determined and able teenagers. Whether people are taught abstinence or contraception, children will continue to pick up scraps of intel from the street if we do not normalise Sex Ed.
Unless you had a young, unscrupulous uncle (or aunt) who had no issues sharing technique (and oftentimes their … erm inspirational stash), you were truly deprived of any real knowledge. Missionaries really messed up our indigenous educational system!
Some (although few) nations still preserve cultural customs that ensure that children are passed on sexual knowledge involving removing children from the home when they come of age (with girls it is when they begin their menstrual cycle). During this period, they are taught the fundamentals of womanhood: hygiene, decorum, and behaviour. These lessons include modules about techniques that are taught as though a dance or game that they play. Overtime when the girls have mastered the dance, they are encouraged to take on lovers for practical purposes; after which they will be ready for marriage and the fulfilment of womanhood (bearing children).
This kind of education is considered the practice of coming-of-age rituals (whether through initiation or rites of passage ceremonies). It is considered the normal part of a person’s growth and their inclusion as a full member of that society. This manner of education removes the secrecy from sex; it renders sex as a natural human expression that is reached through physical and emotional maturity. Sex education is a natural progression into adulthood that every member of society is initiated into.
Although a natural instinct (much like any other physical or emotional function; which when sparked has to run its course), Western teachings have introduced sex as a provocation, the idea of enticement [beyond attraction, this includes a level of luring a potential mate]. This only leads to frustration, as it seeks to render all knowledge thereof as aggravation of the “order of things”. It also introduces the notion of Romance (which is a topic for another post, and whose necessity can be debated). Desire is stunted and any kind of curious thought and expression are likely to be categorised as sexual deviancy.
Most people learn that the distribution of knowledge is all kinds of wrong; we learn with great difficulty when only prescribed what we cannot do. As difficult as the learning process is, it is much harder to learn a new concept by being told what you cannot do. Our indigenous knowledge is passed on in a way that allows for you to learn about sex (knowledge what), but also passes on how to sex, without the need for punitive measures.
Later in life, most people have to modify all they have learnt about sex. Imagine the burden we would lift if we only learnt through conditioning, and not through behaviour modification.
Writer: Tebogo Serobatse Photographer: Jeff Rokhotso