I was lucky enough to get to see Dan and Bill Savage’s presentation Savage Love with Dan and Bill Savage at the Chicago Humanities Festival on Friday night. Dan Savage is the author of the advice column Savage Love and has also written several books, The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family, Skipping Towards Gomorrah, The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant, and Savage Love: Straight Answers from America’s Most Popular Sex Columnist. His brother Bill Savage is an English professor at Northwestern University. They both had fantastic stage presence and discussed sex education in an entertaining though serious manner.
Dan argued that what we have in schools right now is not sex education but reproductive biology. He suggested that what we consider a good sex education program is analogous to a driver’s ed program where they only teach about how the engine of the car works and not how to steer or use the gas and brake pedals. People would come out of the class and know the mechanics, but the first time they tried to drive a car they would probably crash. Sex education doesn’t really prepare people for how to have sex. He added that the ideal program, though it will likely never happen, would include information about birth control and how to talk people into fucking you.
In lieu of programs in schools, Dan suggests that it may be incredibly beneficial to direct people to good internet resources. There is a lot of good information out there. He mentioned Scarleteen as one particularly good resource for young people. Another important thing he suggested that parents can do is direct their children to other trustworthy adults to answer their questions as talking to your own kids about sex can be a difficult thing to do. Parents don’t like to think about their children having sex and kids don’t like to think about their parents having sex. Having another person they can talk to, like an aunt or uncle about sex is certainly going to be helpful for some.
For the most part I agree with that though I think some programs do try to help people develop relationship skills. I also think that he is right in that his ideal program will never be adopted. Sex education is an area that is fraught with controversy and has been for a long time. But people have to learn about it from somewhere, pregnancy, STIs, and even relationships themselves can be life altering and people who lack the skills to deal with these things are likely to be more severely affected. As Dan said, sex is scary and we should approach it with some fear. However, we should also know about the risks and then decide whether or not we want to take those risks. It makes much more sense to approach sex with some knowledge about it and the ability to communicate about what you want than to let it “just happen.”