While the Internet has forever changed the way that young people learn about sex, sexual education hasn't caught up much. In large part this is due to social conservatives who want kids to learn about sex the old-fashioned way: playground rumor and innuendo. Sex education, where it exists, tends to focus mostly on contraception, despite overwhelming evidence that condoms are the least of kids' concerns. Finally, few innovative and exciting techniques exist to teach modern children about modern love.
Cue Blake Spence, a 28-year-old sex educator from Calgary. Spence coordinates the WiseGuyz program, a sexual education program for 9th grade boys in Calgary public schools. A project of the Calgary Sexual Health Centre, WiseGuyz does more than just update sexual education for the 21st Century. The program aims to create a world with less domestic violence, sexually transmitted infections and teen pregnancy. In the short term, WiseGuyz wants to teach young men how to have health relationships with women and practice non-destructive forms of masculinity.
Of course, WiseGuyz addresses the elephant in the room of ubiquitous access to pornography. While your father learned about sex from his buddies in the locker room, kids these days are learning about sex from smutty films. We're certainly not going to say anything bad about porn, but it's certainly not where kids should be getting their sexual education from. When two (or more) adults get off to a video of a woman getting pissed on, they're aware of the context in which such activity takes place, both on and off camera. Teenagers lack this context. Rather than telling them that porn is “bad,” WiseGuyz wants to start a dialogue with teenagers about pornography.
WiseGuyz curriculum isn't mandatory. Boys will need a parental permission slip to sit in. It's also an elective, meaning that teachers often try and steer boys into the program who seem like they would benefit most. Kids red flagged for WiseGuyz include teenage boys who already have girlfriends, boys with a history of fighting or boys who have a pattern of using sexist and homophobic language. The point isn't to get the boys in touch with their feminine side or any other such New Age pap. Rather, WiseGuyz wants boys to get in touch with their masculine side, figure out exactly what role it plays in their life and then begin making responsible decisions about behaving like the man they want to grow into.
The program seems to hinge upon a recent revelation among those seeking to create better men: Want to get a boy to listen to you about how to behave toward women? Get a guy to tell him. A female activist whinging at a teenage boy isn't going to do a whole lot. Putting the same boy in front of a man he respects and admires will make a huge difference, however.
Indeed, WiseGuyz is part of a broader movement that attempts to get men on the same page without patronizing, belittling or berating them. To that end, classes are gender segregated and older boys are encouraged to provide positive reinforcement to the younger boys.
We certainly laud a movement toward creating manly men who know how to treat women. Thanks for helping to make every girl's dream come true, WiseGuyz.