In the fifth grade, my friends and I had a special afternoon tradition. When school let out at 3:30, we would walk to Katherine’s house (a pseudonym), raid her fridge, go upstairs to her bedroom, lock the door and watch Internet pornography. Where were Katherine’s parents? They were at work. But it wouldn’t have mattered. When they were around, we just turned off the sound, or read erotic literature on a website called Kristen Archives. This is how we gained the indispensable knowledge that some women like to be ravished by farmhands, and others, by farm animals. The year was 1999. We had not yet sat through our first sex-ed class, but when we did, almost two years later, it was spectacularly disappointing. We had seen it all, and now we were shading in a diagram of the vas deferens.
Since our special after-school tradition came to an end over a decade ago, Friendster, Myspace, Facebook, Flickr, Formspring, Instagram and Twitter have emerged. But against all logic, nothing has changed in the sex-ed business. Our century is literally on the cusp of puberty, and yet despite these enormous social and technological changes, we remain largely incapable of giving kids the resources they need to deal with their own puberty. I’m talking here, specifically, about the province of Ontario. As you read this, kids from Sarnia to Kingston – kids who, on average, have viewed Internet porn by age 11 – are probably shading in the exact same vas deferens diagram I did. There’s nothing wrong with the vas deferens – or so I’m told – but surely there is more to sexual education in the 21st century than anatomy and colouring. Ontario currently boasts the most out-of-date sex-ed curriculum in Canada. It was last revised in 1998, which means sex ed was out of date when I took it.
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Kids shouldn’t watch porn, but they do. We can’t un-invent the Internet. And we can’t reverse puberty. Case in point: In 2001, one of the most determined voyeurs in our special after-school group skipped sex ed at the request of her religious father – for whom an hour of vas deferens shading was just too much to bear. He told her to go to the library instead, which was fine with her. Who, after all, could resist an afternoon with the Kristen Archives?