Sunday November 6 2016

To teach or not to teach about sex in schools

By Alan Tacca

Apart from tithes and other cash collections, there is no subject about which our religious leaders are as tireless as sex, although the ignorance they bring to the subject is sometimes phenomenal.

Let me give an indirect illustration: In the October 30 Sunday Monitor (page 21), ‘Life’ magazine asked each of four ordinary young women: “What if you found your husband watching porn?”

Jane Mukisa, a peer educator, said she would advise her husband to stop. In essence, she reasons that the movies could provide images to which her man returns during their intimacy. In time, he might judge her unable to meet the expectations formed in those fantasies.

Viola Nalumansi, a beauty salon attendant, suggests that a man is sometimes so preoccupied with family and work obligations that he has little time to think about marriage pleasures. She adds: “watching porn could be a sex stimulant. However, I would try to create an environment that increases his sex urge.”

Peace Namirembe, a businesswoman, answers: “It depends on the age of my spouse. If he is still in his 20s, it could be group influence and curiosity. However, I would caution him to stop because he might want to apply what he watches on me.”

Lucia Nakamate, also a businesswoman, replies: “For a born again woman like me, I would just pick up my bible and pray for him because that would be a sign that the Devil is penetrating our marriage. Marriages have broken up because of pornography, so I can’t take it lightly.”

I was struck immediately that in the first three answers, the women wanted to understand and solve the problem on the human scale.
Two would engage their spouses in some kind of conversation, advising or cautioning their man.
If the salon attendant can improve their environment, perhaps her man would no longer feel a need to escape into porn fantasies.

The three women can benefit from each other’s approaches. To cautionary conversation, one can add creating real-life situations for a more exciting sex life.

The fourth woman, Lucia Nakamate’s answer comes from a very low intellectual base. It is completely irrational.
At the very outset, she thrusts her religion in your face, the ‘born again’ thing.
Then, unlike the other women, she does not attempt to interpret the problem in the context of some shortcoming between two married people relating with each other.

Instead, she sees a malicious external spirit, the Devil, which invades specifically to ruin their marriage.
After making this medieval diagnosis, what is her solution?
Unlike the other three women, Nakamate does not think of tenderly engaging directly with an errant spouse. Instead, she would pick her bible and pray; not even with him, but for him. Presumably, she would expect her God to attack, fight and drive off the Devil. Then their marriage would be fine!

Now, there have been persistent reports of unsuitable foreign-sourced reading material being given to some schools under a broader (if shadowy) Ministry of Education sex education programme. After vocal protest, the entire programme has now reportedly been stopped, and many religious leaders are celebrating.
Unfortunately, the sexual drive will not go away. Neither will curiosity among the young. But you do not avoid being harmed by anything by remaining ignorant about it.
In this country, many pre-teenage children are reported to have been sexually molested. The predators are not only drug addicts and monsters from the common crowd. They include ‘trusted’ priests and schoolteachers.
Furthermore, with TV/home cinema, mobile devices and the Internet, not to mention interaction with rogue peers, many youngsters have access to unregulated erotic material.
These realities – and the glaring dangers – would suggest a need for speeding the development of suitable educational material for different age groups, not a blanket ban.
The work of developing suitable content for vulnerable youngsters is neither for foreign pro-gay and lesbian activists, nor for local religious leaders. It is a task for educational psychologists and other behavioural scientists. And these know that teaching about sex does not mean teaching active participation.
However, when the time for active participation comes, those early lessons would have given our Nakamates a more enlightened background than their pastors now give them. They would know that challenges like a husband’s porn have nothing to do with the Devil.

Next week I will ask: Should youngsters be taught religion, or about religion?

Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.