Literatus: ‘Sex education’ and clever narratives

Zosimo T. Literatus

IN THIS age of deceptive but clever social and “scientific” narratives, the subtleness of linguistic subterfuge can deceive more than the blatant ways of fake news. This clever narrative can also be found in the notion of “sex education” and its standard definition from global organizations, such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco).

Let us begin dissecting the phrase “sex education” first. The term “sex” is a noun used as an adjective to the word “education.” The “sex” here, however, refers to the “sexual act,” not the human biological identity of male or female. Thus, by its term alone, this education is actually an education about the sexual activity.

Several researchers are to be blamed for this materialistic use. I got this phrase from Hildie Leung, Daniel Shek, Edvina Leung and Esther Shek of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in China. This indicates an attitude of materialism that views the human body as a thing to be used for sexual acts.

Notice that the focus is not on the person but on a sexual act—as if the person is less important than the act itself. An “education on human sexuality” or “human sexuality education” seems more appropriate, and indirectly refers to the human person through his or her sexuality.

Even our Commission on Population and Development is careful in using “sexuality education” over “sex education.” Evidently, the agency knows the linguistic and theological dimensions of these terms.

Now, let us continue with the standard definition as defined in the “International Guidelines on Sexuality Education” document from Unesco, which Leung and colleagues had used to define their so-called “sex education.” Take note also that Unesco uses “sexuality education” and not “sex education.”

Nevertheless, the definition goes: “An age-appropriate, culturally relevant approach to teaching about sex and relationships by providing scientifically accurate, realistic, non-judgmental information.” Exploring this definition today will not be possible.

Next week, we will explore the following phrases: “age-appropriate,” “culturally relevant,” “about sex,” “relationships,” “scientifically accurate,” “realistic,” and “non-judgmental.”

You may have taken all of these phrases literally. However, you will find out next week that there are specific meanings behind these that are even opposite from their literal meanings. See you then.