Never-ending “gender-specific” sex education

When talking about women’s physiological phenomena, I often hear people say, “I’m a man, so I don’t really understand” and “I think women can understand.” But it’s not just because the speaker doesn’t experience the physiological phenomenon. There is no place to learn it in childhood. This time, while listening to Mr. Kim Harim, a fellow of the NPO PILCON, let’s think about the risks of gender education in Japanese elementary schools.

“You can’t say that about menstruation.”

I was careful when the author, a cisgender [* 1] woman, was in a bad mood for some reason and was asked by a cisgender male friend, “Is it menstrual?” And I still regret it all the time.

Why did cisgender men think they shouldn’t say “physiology”?
It’s stereotyped to think of women’s emotional relationships as femininity, but it shouldn’t be a problem for men to say “physiology.”

The reason I paid attention to him was that I thought menstruation was taboo, and that I didn’t know anything about menstruation, but don’t say it lightly.
There are several possible reasons for the latter, which I instantly decided that I wouldn’t know anything about menstruation.

First, I didn’t know much about male physiology.
And when I heard about menstruation, there was always only a cisgender woman in the space.
Moreover, until then, I had only heard stories about menstruation, including menstruation, with one hand.

All of them are related to sex education.
And the culture of the country has a great influence on sex education.

Sex education in Japan begins in elementary school, where many children first come into contact with sex.

Two years ago, in March 2019, the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education revised the “Sex Education Guide” for the first time in 15 years.
The “practice edition” of the guide begins in elementary school, and it can be seen that sex education in Japan also begins in elementary school.

First and last “gender-separated” lessons

The sex education I received in elementary school 10 years ago fits into the pre-revision guide.

Only female students were gathered in a large classroom, and the school doctor taught the mechanism of sexuality as a special class. After the class, I received a sanitary napkin.

The content of the lesson does not touch deeply on contraceptives, but the main contents are the names of female genitals such as “uterus” and “ovary”, the relationship between eggs and sperms, the true nature of menstruation, and the mechanism of menstruation. Met. When I saw a school doctor drawing a large genital shape on the blackboard that I had never spoken to before, that is, I unconsciously understood that it was taboo, I was shocked that I could do that. I still remember it well.

I didn’t learn about contraceptives not only in elementary school but also in junior high school and high school. It wasn’t until I became a college student that I learned about the existence of after-pills, and I wouldn’t know how to use condoms unless I had to find out or actually use them. And even in that situation, you can’t tell if a condom is being used correctly unless you’ve looked it up in advance. In this way, cases of failure in contraception are born.

I only know that on the day I was gathered only by girls, boys were in different classrooms and had different sex education, but I still don’t know what they were taught.

It was the first and last time that boys and girls took classes separately after entering elementary school, so you can ask what the boys heard in the class, and you can do that class. I thought that I shouldn’t even tell the boys what I heard in.

At the end of the lesson (some of them would have picked it up for the first time), the schoolgirl who received the napkin put the napkin in a school bag so that the boys couldn’t see it. An unprecedentedly quiet air surrounded the classroom. I still never forget that strange atmosphere.

According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education, the 2019 revision is “ It is necessary to surely instruct all children and students the contents shown in the course of study and to obtain the understanding of parents while considering modern issues. For the implementation of appropriate sex education, such as providing proper guidance ” [1] .

Modern issues include “progress of computerization,” “sexual damage via the Internet,” and “sexually transmitted diseases among young people,” and the Internet society seems to have a major impact.

“By gender” unchanged

Even in the revised edition, the format in which students are divided into boys and girls and sex education is provided in advance with accommodation for fifth graders continues here as well.

“Gender is a personal and delicate issue,” and the reason for dividing it into male and female students is that “there are gender differences in the changes in the adolescent body that both men and women visit, and the guidance given to each gender should be conscious of the opposite sex. Instead, we can give guidance to directly answer each anxiety and confusion . ” [2]

The contents of the two lessons, “Men’s Edition” and “Women’s Edition”, are very different and focus on their respective genders.

In “Men’s Edition”

  • Androgens
  • Secondary sexual characteristics of boys
  • Outline of class contents that girls are taking
  • Individual differences in body growth
  • Experiences by a male teacher
  • Summary

Therefore, the contents received by the female students are not received by the male students as they are.

In “Women’s Edition”

  • female hormone
  • Secondary sexual characteristics of girls
  • Outline of class contents that boys are taking
  • Mechanism of menstruation ・ Menstrual cycle
  • Types and usage of napkins
  • How to bathe during menstruation and clothes to wear
  • What to do if you don’t have a napkin
  • Individual differences in body growth
  • Experiences by female teachers
  • Summary

It has become.

It can be seen that the proportion of boys’sexual stories is even smaller, as many girls take lessons about menstruation.

In addition, while female students learn practically how to put on napkins, there is no practice in male students’ classes.

These classes on female and male genitalia are based on the theme of “health guidance in advance of accommodation,” and are only one hour in the sixth grade of elementary school. Classes on the theme of “friendship and trust” are held over four years from the third grade to the sixth grade of elementary school, and the theme is “review of one’s own life and growth” and “having a wish for future growth”. Classes are held for a total of 36 hours from the first to the second grade of elementary school, but the allocation is very small [3] .

Harim, PILCON Fellow

I asked Mr. Kim Harim, a fellow of PILCON, an NPO that promotes rights-based sex education, what kind of impressions he has about gender education.

“Sex education by gender can be detrimental, both personally and politically,” says Harim. “As a personal issue, it promotes gender stereotypes, and it is difficult for couples to understand each other, and it is easy for troubles to occur in romantic relationships. As a political issue, gender inequality becomes serious and policy When the people who make decisions are male majority, it is unclear whether it is effective or not based on the issues that are actually occurring, such as “a society where women can shine” without understanding the circumstances surrounding women and the constraints of the environment. I think it tends to push forward with the policy of. “

“Above all, it’s a gender binary, ignoring transgender and queer people altogether. Heterosexual and ascetic sex education. I’m homosexual. It is important to know about the heterosexual body, whether it is a person or a heterosexual, and of course, in order to communicate as a social member when something goes wrong in society, including physiological poverty. First of all, we need to understand the heterosexual body, and knowing it applies to human rights. “

Regarding the “awkwardness” that occurs in sex education, he says, “what learners should do is different from what educators should do.” “As for learners, it’s natural that people have different perceptions of sexuality. If that person feels uncomfortable or awkward, that’s fine, and if there are many such people, it’s a reflection of society. I think it’s important for educators to reassure learners that they feel uncomfortable, saying, “It’s not strange, it’s okay at your own pace.” However, to prevent learners from becoming awkward, they should not be separated by gender from the beginning. When some children have sexual minorities and they are ignored, they are prejudiced and discriminated against sexual minorities. It leads to promotion, that is, it becomes a one-sided and violent education in a sense
. I think that it is impossible to solve the “awkwardness” without facing “anxiety and confusion”. “

Is the next revision 2034?

In addition to the above, it is also mentioned that “more than 10 years have passed since the last revision” as the reason for creating the revised version of the “Sex Education Guide”. The revised version of the “International Sexuality Education Guidance” published mainly by UNESCO was revised nine years after the first edition, but the “Guide to Sex Education” published by the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education. The revision took an even longer time of 15 years.

The next revision in 2019 will be 2029, which is 10 years later, and 2034, which is 15 years later, considering that this revision is the first in 15 years.

Will the gender-separated sex education curriculum always face “modern challenges” head-on in 2034? And is there a continuing society in which it is judged appropriate to have sex education divided into men and women?

In 2034, it’s not surprising that children of my generation are beginning to receive sex education.

* 1: A state in which the body’s gender and gender identity match.

[1] Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education “Revision of” Sex Education Guide “”   Viewed March 2021 24th

[2] Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education (2019) Chapter 2 Practical Edition [Elementary School Edition]. Sex Education Guide, p. 54-58. Https:// press / 2019/03/28 / documents / 22_02.pdf

[3] Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education (2019) Chapter 2 Practical Edition [Elementary School Edition]. Sex Education Guide, pp. 41-44. Https:// press / 2019/03/28 / documents / 22_02.pdf

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