No Opt-Out Allowed
Today I watched the video NO OPT-OUT ALLOWED: The California Sex Ed Indoctrination. I haven’t been paying a lot of attention to the California sex ed changes because I don’t live in California. But from all of the hype around this video I honestly thought it was possible that California had actually gone too far, so I decided I should watch it for myself.
You can tell from the all-caps in the title and the tense music that the videos are supposed to be horrifying. In fact, if you just listen to the narration without watching the video, it sounds pretty disturbing. But the video also shows the actual content they are complaining about, which is pretty tame.
When they complain about pornographic content being shown to young children, the video shows illustrations from the section of the book intended to teach children the correct names for their genitalia. Instead of the usual confusing disembodied images from angles that only an OB-GYN would ever see, the book features cartoon children standing naked in front of a mirror (so that you can see front and back at the same time) with all of the parts labeled with medically accurate names. The girl is squatting to allow you to see between her legs. There is nothing remotely sexual about these images. They are simply teaching anatomy to children, which very important for things like telling the doctor where it itches, and helping them report if they have been sexually assaulted.
When they state that “They talk about anal and oral sex as an alternative to regular sex because you can’t get pregnant.” The actual paragraph shown is: “Clarify for students that vaginal sex can lead to pregnancy, but references to “sexual contact” include vaginal, oral, digital, and anal sex as well, all of which can lead to STIs (sexually transmitted infections).” This is not encouraging students to use these as alternatives to vaginal sex. This is warning students that non-vaginal sex still have consequences.
Around 4:30 minutes into the video we find out exactly why comprehensive sex ed is necessary. The speaker states “I don’t even know what dental dams is. I had to look that up!” A dental dam is a piece of latex or plastic designed to prevent you from exchanging bodily fluids with your partner during oral sex that does not involve a penis. (For oral sex on a penis you would use a condom). Its only purpose is to make sex safer. And if he doesn’t even know it exists, he’s clearly not qualified to educate kids about it.
I’m sure he would say that his kids don’t need to know about it because they won’t be having oral sex. But given that the video objects to mentioning oral sex in the context of STIs, I assume his strategy to prevent kids from having oral sex is to pretend it doesn’t exist. But these really aren’t practices that require an instruction manual to figure out. Both oral and anal sex are observed throughout the animal kingdom, so this strategy basically relies on assuming your teenager is dimmer than a fruit fly.
The part that needs to be taught are the risks associated with these behaviours, and how to mitigate them. And sure, you can tell kids it would be best not to engage in these behaviours. In fact, all of the resources they are criticizing do emphasize that abstinence is always the safest option. But how exactly do you plan to tell them not to do “it” without telling them what “it” is?
They then went into some complicated conspiracy theory about Cardea Services, one of the training organizations associated with the new curriculum. They assume that the organization was named after Cardea, the ancient Roman goddess of the door hinge. They state that Cardea was associated with “fixing boundaries and marking out sacred spaces”, which they take to mean that “in their mind the public school system is theirs and the parents have no place in it. They fix the boundaries; they want you out.”
This is an awfully big jump. To start with, Cardea Services was founded in 1971, when the challenge was getting sex education into schools, not preventing parents from interfering with their children’s rights. One of their three offices is in Texas, where comprehensive sex education still isn’t even in the curriculum. Furthermore, school-based sex education is not the only thing they do. Their stated mission is “to provide technical and training assistance to public and private health and human services organizations in the United States”, and they have plenty of programs that have nothing to do with schools. So I really don’t think sex ed has anything to do with their name.
Furthermore, Cardea was also associated with protecting children and families, which seems like a logical choice for a charity focused on reducing harm to children. Or perhaps they were going for the analogy of opening doors. Even if you assume that the name is related to sex ed, and that Cardea was chosen due to her association with boundaries, it could be based on helping teens set boundaries. Jumping to the conclusion that they are trying to lock parents out is simply absurd.
The rest of the video is about California’s confidential medical release program, which allows students to excuse themselves from school for any medical appointments that they can consent to by law. This includes abortion, birth control, STI testing, prenatal services and mental health services. This is not new. The California Attorney General clarified that students can excuse themselves for these appointments and that schools are not required to inform parents in 1983. They further clarified in 2004 that schools cannot inform parents of the absence, and it will be considered an excused absence. I know Evangelical Christians tend to be a couple decades behind the times when it comes to pop culture, but how do you fear monger about a policy that has already been in place for over 35 years? I see people all over social media complaining about how much this policy is going to increase the abortion rate. But because it’s an old policy we already have that data, and it didn’t.
But why did they just find out about this policy? Certainly the government shouldn’t be implementing secret policies like this! Well, it’s not supposed to be a secret. The law requires schools to inform students and parents about this policy. Most comply by putting it in their school handbook. It presumably hasn’t come to their attention because it’s really not a big deal.
Overall, I found absolutely nothing to be upset about in this video. If that’s the best they could come up with the new California sex ed program must be pretty good.