Sex Education: 101

Letters of birds and the bees

There’s been a flurry of controversy in print, radio and social media about the newly revised Ontario Sex Education Curriculum, due to start in Ontario’s elementary schools this fall.

It’s complicated. Talking about the birds and the bees is probably one of the toughest topics for parents to tackle with their children. When we were kids we didn’t have the World Wide Web, cell phones and Facebook. Sexting (sending explicit sexual images or messages electronically), date rape drugs, reality TV and online social networks were non-existent. There is no question that the primary ‘teacher’ of sexual and social values should be parents—but what is their level of competence and comfort?

I recall my Mom sitting down with my sister Carol and me for our talk about menstruation and how babies are made – Mom was equipped with the handy Kotex booklet and a sanitary belt. She did a great job. Later that evening my Dad asked Carol and I to come into the living room for a chat—“Did we have any questions we’d like to ask?”  Are you kidding???  I know this sounds like a page from Leave It To Beaver, but this open and frank discussion set the stage for ongoing communication. But let’s face it—it’s tough to raise children in today’s society which is multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-gendered, multi-networked and LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered, questioning). Accurate and reliable information is more vital than ever if children are ‘to become informed, productive, caring, responsible, healthy and active citizens in their communities’. (The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8 – preface).

Many parents believe that this program is pushing the curriculum too fast. That it is taking away the innocence of childhood and does not support family values. As a Registered Nurse I believe that health is a whole person experience—it is holistic in nature and addresses the physical, emotional, cognitive, social, religious and sexual needs of a person. These essentials help to develop a person’s self-esteem which is the foundation for healthy growth and development. A positive self-esteem helps a child:

  • to feel good about who they are,
  • to understand and solve problems,
  • to say NO or YES as appropriate,
  • to trust they are a person of worth,
  • to not be a follower,
  • to not succumb to peer pressure, and
  • to be free to develop their personal beliefs and values.

The sex education curriculum provides timely information that most students would have already gleaned from the internet or TV, but at least all students will receive the same accurate information, at the same time, by caring and knowledgeable teachers. Kids are then able to go home and discuss the material with their parents. Some schools offer workshops for parents so they have an understanding of the content and teacher prompts which help to bring the lessons to life. Parents do have the right to have their children opt out of any class.

Summary of the sex education topics by grade level:

Grade Topics
One ·         Names of body parts
Two ·         Stages of growth and development
Three ·         Healthy family relationships – i.e. children raised by a single parent, grandparents, guardian, 2 mothers, 2 fathers or in a traditional family setting·         Showing respect for individuals
Four ·         Safe use of technology·         Bullying and abuse

·         Puberty

Five ·         Bullying and violence·         Menstruation and spermatogenesis – emotional and interpersonal changes
Six ·         Development of self-concept·         Sexual orientation

·         Homophobia

·         Masturbation

·         Racism and discrimination

Seven ·         Dangers of technology – i.e. sexting·         Delaying sexual activity

·         Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

·         Pregnancy prevention – contraception

·         Consent

·         Moral and ethical considerations

Eight ·         Sexual assault and dating violence·         Decisions about sexual activity

·         Gender identity and sexual orientation

·         Self-concept

·         Consent at every stage

·         Setting personal limits

 

Check out the new curriculum and Parent’s Guide at: www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng

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Good Sex and Good Health

black-love-template-hi

Did you know that good health contributes to good sex and that sex contributes to good health? According to The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada the following are some of the benefits of being sexually active as you get older:

  • Sex burns fat and boosts your immune system
  • Sex causes the brain to release endorphins – the body’s natural pain relievers
  • Sex relieves stress and makes you feel good
  • Sexually active people have higher levels of naturally produced sex hormones – in other words use it or lose it!
  • If you keep sexually active throughout your life, the physical changes that come with aging may be less pronounced and sexuality is usually less affected
  • There is more to sex than penetration. There are many ways to be physically intimate, and they all contribute to your health and well-being
  • Having sex takes up about as much energy as walking up two flights of stairs so sex is rarely dangerous. But if you have any health-related concerns, consult your physician or healthcare professional
  • Being active contributes to physical and emotional health. But remember, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) know no age boundary; so if you are sexually active always practice safe sex.

Sex is an antidote to aging – so here are some additional reasons to get your mojo going:

  • Minimizes risk of incontinence
  • Helps you sleep by easing the body and lulling the mind and spirit
  • Lowers the risk of prostate cancer
  • Decreases blood pressure by opening and relaxation of the blood vessels
  • Releases human growth hormone which along with the discharge of some estrogen and testosterone are key factors in keeping your skin elastic, reducing wrinkles, firming muscles, shines up the skin and makes your hair softer
  • Diminishes atrophy or shrinkage of the prostate and vagina and other muscles and ligaments in the nether region

What about emotional and spiritual well-being? Sex floods our brain with endorphins and oxytocin which improves mood and attitude and helps us to feel younger.  I think the above, provides enough evidence that we better use it or we’ll lose. So get down and dirty and get your sexy on!

The Sexual Revolution ……. Why it Still Matters

     Georgge and Peace Sign

Born in the 50s and coming of age in the 60s and 70s, shaped the lives of millions of boomers like no generation before. The seductive landscape of unprecedented social and moral liberation transformed society forever. I actually hadn’t given that era much thought until I started to research it. It’s jaw-dropping just how significant those times and events were. From the 1960s to the 1970s our norms of behavior changed dramatically and what once was forbidden and sanctimonious was swiftly emancipated. Sex before marriage and living common-law became the norm; behind closed doors–masturbation, erotic fantasies and sex toys created a stir; and the closet door on homosexuality started to squeak open. The Feminist Movement freed the bowels of society acknowledging women’s equality and redefining sexuality. Fuelled by lingering shreds of Victorian prudings – these good and not so good vibrations laid everything bare, leaving us to make sense of it all. The advent of The Pill, improved antibiotics and reliable condoms permitted the x-rated excitation of the mind, heart and loins of our youth.  Along with it came the mainstreaming of pornography, progressive permissiveness, flurry of drugs and the free love generation. Who knew, we were living in the Sexual Revolution? The 60s also marked the assassination of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, racial unrest, the Viet Nam War, riots (Selma, Kent State, Stonewall) and sit-ins. Our generation fought fearlessly for civil rights, quality, justice and care of our planet. My Teenage Years Looking back on my teenage years at an all-girls Catholic high school, I was cocooned from many of the movements occurring in society. My very strict religious upbringing and defined expectations of how I was to live my life, limited my exposure to some of these realities. Despite these parameters my psyche was trying to deal with hormones, sexual awakenings, querying how far would I ‘go’ and was an orgasm really that electric. Today, my four sisters and I often remark that we are surprised we turned out sexually balanced, given the norms of our parents’ generation. I recall my high school years at St. Joseph’s Convent School as being very hopeful. The nuns instilled a strong belief in us; we could aspire to be anything, do anything and make a difference in the world. They encouraged us to take our rightful place in society as strong and capable women. I also recall learning the meaning of 69, the difference between a good girl and a nice girl, a dildo, S&M and a BJ. Pornography I know that every generation before us dealt with teenage sexual thoughts and feelings – but they didn’t grow up with the carnal knowledge that danced on the movie screen before our hungry eyes – nudity, anal sex, LSD trips and images of forbidden lovers as portrayed in the following films: •          Blow-up (1966, Vanessa Redgrave) •          Mondo Topless (1966, Babette Bardot) •          Barbarella (1968, Jane Fonda) •          Deep Throat (1972, John Holmes, known for his exceptionally large penis) •          Last Tango in Paris (1972, Marlon Brando) •          Debbie Does Dallas (1978, Bambi Woods) Rock’n Roll Paralleling the thrust of the silver screen was the explosive beat of rock’n roll that bolted onto our TV screens, captured our living rooms and pulsated through every bone and muscle of our young bodies In 2014, the PBS Network chronicled the music of the 60s in Ed Sullivan’s Rock ‘n Roll Classics. My family would never miss The Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday night. I can just see Ed introducing the Beatles “Here on our stage, for all the youngsters in Canada and the US, straight from Manchester, England – The Beatles!” My parents were appalled by their long hair and suggestive music—so much so that I wasn’t even allowed to do the twist. I think they were afraid that we would become hippies and become embroiled in the bohemian sub-culture of Yorkville, Toronto. Today, as I listen to the music of the 60s and 70s, it makes me feel brand new again. It vibrates within my very soul of hope, energy and idealism and takes me back to a time when I thought I could do and be whatever I desired. Music is like going on a magic carpet through the canyons of my mind. It evokes place, time, emotion and people—it unites all of us. I fondly recall the excitement of a young’s girl’s heart—going to a Michael Power Street dance and carelessly swinging to the Staccatos, The Association and Mandela. Did you meet some sweet pimpled guy, on a starry starry night at The Kee-to-Bala, The Pav in Orillia or Hidden Valley, Huntsville and flirtatiously move to the beat of The Turtles or Lighthouse? Tell me about it. What an iconic time eh! The beat goes on… the beat goes on and the spirit of the Sexual Revolution beats inside of our hearts and minds today. We were once hard rockers but we’re not in the rocking chair yet! Please take a moment to share your memories of those crazy, hazy days—your first kiss, first love, first heartbreak etc. Why does the Sexual Revolution still matter to you?

Am I Still Sexy?

STL Hollowe'en         Boomers running

When the premier issue of Zoomer magazine hit the stands in October 2008, I was exhilarated that a publication hit my sweet spot. It spoke to me about reinvigoration and energy when the common terms about getting old were elder, the golden years and senior citizen. I wanted to be called something else. The term zoomer actually gave me permission to expect wonderful things from getting older; allowed me to dream of things I had yet to achieve and instilled hope for a triumphant charge into the rest of my life. I no longer wanted to turn the clock back, a useless wish anyway—but I wanted to set the tone and tempo to a new beat. Being a zoomer made me feel sexy.

Moses Znaimer writes in his opening article Hello Zoomers:

“Zoomer is primarily a state of mind! It’s an attitude toward living long – an open, optimistic attitude that combines a desire for new experiences with a sense of purpose and value. It’s an attitude that frankly recognizes the challenges of aging (and actively advocates for them), but also insists that aging doesn’t have to mean retreating from life. … We see this time not as ‘the end’ but as a new and exciting stage in life. And yes, we want romance and expect to continue with the joys of sex.”

Everyone has their own idea of what being sexy is. When I asked my brother-in-law Richard, how he perceived ‘sexiness’ in women he replied “it’s the total package—it starts with the T-zone which is the ‘T’ formed by the eyes and nose. There, I see a window to their souls; how she holds her head, the respectful engagement with the eyes, the confidence in the smile and the meaningfulness of the conversation.” Interestingly, Debbie a nursing colleague and friend, had a similar comment when talking about men, “assertive but not aggressive, friendly but not frenetic, positive but not pssst-off with life and perhaps a bit flirty but not uber-flirtatious.”

Whatever we perceive sexiness to be, it’s the amassing of our life experiences that shines through our persona. What does your T-zone say about you? Are you a bit flirty or a bit assertive?  Is your well-being doing well or could your total package use a re-wire?

For the past 50, 60 or 70 years we have lived—and none of us have done it perfectly. The decisions we made and the priorities we chose were influenced by innumerable factors. As I write my book Still Sexy at 60+……. Seven Secrets to Finding Life’s Sweet Spot, I do not want to dwell on the past but learn from it and use this insight to get it right for the years we have left—because we’ve all had friends who have died prematurely and some perhaps with regrets. We arrive at this juncture in our lives with an abundance of stuff—some good and some not so good:

•          Experienced separation and/or divorce—for better or for worse;

•          Coped with disease and/or disability;

•          Lusted, loved, lost or now in limbo;

•          Procreated new generations;

•          Shielded one’s sexual orientation or bravely came out;

•          Fulfilled career goals or not;

•          Had tragedies and/or blessings;

•          Supported parents at their bedside as they took their last breath;

•          Been okay, not okay or a bit of both.

It’s all good friends. The good news is that we can choose to make a change now and find our sweet spot in life. Stay tuned as we explore this sassy edge to life and use our past to redefine our future. Begin with YES………………….……………………YOLO