Rethinking Sex Ed. What We’re Doing Isn’t Working

Posted | 13 comments

sex ed 2


Welcome to this new podcast on Rethinking Sex Education.

In this episode, we explore the five core institutions that make up a society. When there is a society-wide problem, this is who we call upon to solve it.

With personal stories and a few statistics, we look at how all but one of our five social institutions have their hands tied behind their backs when it comes to sexually educating our young. The one that is unfettered and working hard, is the very one we don’t want on the job. We have a problem!

Have a listen.
And as always, I’d love to hear what you’re thinking. Comment here, on Facebook, or via personal message. I’ll be integrating your comments into the final book.





  1. Wow, Doug, your analysis here is spot on. Clear as a bell and comprehensive. I’m excited about this project!

    • what kind words! thank you!

  2. When my daughter was in kindergarten, she and one of her friends were playing in the basement. From the top of the stairs, I heard a little 5 year old voice say, “Ok now let’s play rape. That means I get on top of you while you kick and scream and say no no no.”
    Our kids are picking up sexual language and ideas long before they are ready and whether or not we as parents and caregivers are ready to teach them.
    I can sympathize with the mom from your story who was taken by surprise and unable to talk to her daughter about her menstrual cycle. I wasn’t exactly prepared to discuss sexual crime with two little girls. But I did the best I could because we just don’t have the luxury of NOT talking to our kids about this stuff. The amount of misinformation out there is astonishing. I’m looking forward to hearing what you have to say, Doug.

    • It is just as you say. Like so many areas of our lives and spirituality, at this turbulent moment in history, we don’t have the luxury of not addressing the disorienting pace of change upon us. Thanks for the comment.

  3. I found your statement that “the institutions that are most likely to have the children’s interests in mind are the church and the family” disturbing because the schools should have the children’s interests in mind. Have you given up the fight to make schools relevant in this area of our children’s lives? In any case I fully agree that the church and the family should strongly work together to make sure our children are educated. This gives the church the dual task of winning over the parents to (a) talk to their children in helpful ways, and (b) support the churches efforts to provide the kind of sex education in an environment that makes it easier for the children to hear and absorb what is being taught.

    • I spoke to several teachers before making that statement. The general consensus was that as long as we live in such a polarized — and democratic society, schools will continue to have their hands tied behind their backs.

      In our own state, NC, we are torn between advocates for abstinence-only training in schools, and those who look at the numbers — and realize kids are having sex. They advocate for teaching safe sexual practices — trying to reduce teen pregnancy and limit transmission of disease.

      Currently, the abstinence-only party controls the legislation.
      So again, what is that 8th grade teacher to do?
      How can she speak to her young people in a way that spans the chasm — in our society — and among her own students.

      She can’t. She really can’t.

      And so, our educational systems are hamstrung.
      In the current political climate, they just can’t be the institution we turn to for a viable sexual curriculum.

  4. Very interesting, thank you. My children are grown and I followed my mother’s example of open talk about all matters sexual. But she lived through a double standard which she tried to imprint on me. I didn’t buy it, and I tried to present sex as an equal opportunity risk and responsibility for both my daughter and my son. Of all the observations you made, I most identified with the comment that today many adults are unsure and uncomfortable about where they stand with our sexuality. That may be the biggest hurdle to helping our youth. The church doesn’t have much to say about adult sexuality, either.

    • thank you, jane. my hope is that this project will help us adults think through our own sexuality in a way that isn’t the confining rules-based curriculum we picked up in church, but also helps us handle the fire of our sexuality without burning the place down. doug

  5. Hi Doug, I really appreciate this discussion and find the podcasts very interesting. One thing you mentioned (I’m not sure if it was during this podcast or one of the others) was the 50% divorce rate, which, in my understanding, is a very common misconception. You might find this article helpful if you haven’t seen it yet:
    Thanks for all of your research and insights on this topic!

    • that is really good news, stephanie.

      in wake county (where i live) two years ago, the news was reporting that for every 10 marriages there were 7 divorces. there are a few mitigating factors to that number. first, the economic recovery was far enough along, that people who had been putting off divorce simply because they couldn’t afford it, were doing better financially. the surge represented about 5 years of economically deferred divorces.

      second, several of those 7 divorces were second, third, and fourth divorces. in other words, 70% of marriages are not ending in divorce. many more stay together than that. (of course, this doesn’t take into account is the number of people who live together, don’t get married, but end their relationship. there are no numbers for that, which would skew the results the other way.)

      a third mitigating factor is just what you pointed out in that really good article. younger people are divorcing at a much lower rate. woo hoo!

      here’s a great podcast for those following stephanie’s comment:

      helen fisher is an anthropologist of love and sex. in this interview (and many other places), she points out why the younger are doing better in their marriages. first, they’re more careful. much more careful. they’ve seen how badly things have gone for previous generations. second, they are befriending for much longer before they begin dating. we’ll see in future episodes how profoundly wise this is.

      again, thanks for the comment stephanie.

  6. Doug –
    It pissed me off (literally made me angry) that the number of girls that are raped at college is so high (and why we ignore it or simply don’t know it). Also, as a parent with toddlers I desire those moments when they ask/will ask the tough questions. To me, that’s my chance to impart knowledge and hopefully point them in a direction to be better than I ever was.

  7. I finally started listening to this sex ed podcast and can only say, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” Because sex is so personal, it’s good that you’re broadening the lens and framing the conversation in a societal context. I’m really looking forward to listening to the whole story!

    • Thanks, Jaimie.