Our babies are born pure – it’s us, agenda-pushing or ignorant adults, who corrupt them with our prejudices – homophobia, Islamophobia, and – with relevance to this blog – slut-shaming, victim-blaming, whorephobia and all the other problems of sexism and misogyny.
We need to talk about these issues in Personal and Social Education/Development courses in schools. These courses already tackle sex ed, drugs, alcohol, bullying, getting a job and rape. Gok Wan’s campaign pushed for teaching body confidence in schools (to combat anorexia and bulimia). There’s been a recent campaign for Sex and Relationships Education to be taught, instead of just sex education, to help build skills to maintain healthy relationships and avoid STDs/pregnancy. These are inspired and obviously important goals. Unfortuneately, an attempt to teach abstinence to female pupils in PSE for half an hour every week was attempted in January. So it seems that lots of people have their own ideas of what they’d like to see taught in PSE – for better or for worse.
Surely it’s not too much to ask to dismantle the double standard and all its prevalent, damaging consequences before the word “slut” is screamed out of 11 year old childrens’ mouths? If it’s all nipped in the bud before sexual bullying (which is used as a separate term from slut-shaming but really appears to be the same thing, just more explicitly expressed) happens, our workplaces, communities and families will be free of it, too. And, if families are free of it, that in turn means that schools will have to work a little less harder against these problems in future, as children will retain their inherent purity and not arrive at high school armed with misogynistic prejudice.
Parents also need to instil values in their children. Sadly, just as criminal parents often beget criminal children, prejudiced, hateful parents will often pass on their hate to their (initially at least) innocent offspring.
Hopefully, schools will be able to undo at least some of the damage done by hateful parents – as they already attempt to do with bullying, racism and homophobia (however well you think they’re doing it, an attempt is being made).
I personally believe that there should be moral education in schools – it’s in the title of the ‘Religious and Moral Education’ course, for a start. We shouldn’t be afraid of teaching morals – when did teaching tolerance, anti-bullying, anti-discrimination and human rights hurt anyone? We all know that there are parents out there who, unlike ourselves, aren’t good parents (or good potential parents). This is why the prisons and juvenile detention centres are not standing empty. We can’t trust all parents to give good values to their children. Schools have to take on a little responsibility, step up to the plate and fill that gap. Alternatively, Social Services could intervene with such families; however, in practice it might be difficult, intrusive or time-consuming to track down such families, so teaching values in PSE seems the best bet.
Imagine a world where it wasn’t mainly people in the following situations and academics like scientists, sociologists and anthropologists who know that: Single mums aren’t poor and slutty; nuclear families offer no more advantages to children than single parent families; same-sex couples’ children are more successful than hetero couples’ children; most single mothers are over 30 with one child; teenage pregnancy produces no negative outcomes for parent or child; sex workers aren’t necessarily sluts; sex workers are usually not streetwalkers and tend to do sex work for short periods of time; the double standard and slut-shaming have no logical, factual or scientific basis; most rape victims are raped by someone they know, who planned to rape them.
We’d be on the way to achieving that world if the destructiveness of sexual bullying, victim-blaming, slut-shaming and whorephobia was taught in PSE – and it wouldn’t even need to be half an hour a week. Gok Wan pushed for half an hour a term (if I remember correctly). Whatever the frequency of such teaching, it would tie-in quite well with the current teaching on sex education, pregnancy and rape. So, what are we waiting for?