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Does this sex ed poster go too far?

Monica Beyer is a mom of four and has been writing professionally since 2000, when her first book, Baby Talk, was published. Her main area of interest is attachment parenting and all that goes with it, including breastfeeding, co-sleepin...

List of sex acts offends parents

If your child saw a poster that outlined sex acts, such as vaginal intercourse and anal sex, would you pull her out of the sex education class it appeared in?
Shocked middle school girl

Sex education courses are considered important by many parents and educators, but one Kansas school’s sex ed program is catching flack for a poster that explicitly outlines sexual acts one might partake in.

As it’s a middle school that teaches 12- to 14-year-olds, one parent has cried foul, although other parents (including ones whose children attend the school) aren’t bothered at all.

Sexual feelings

The poster itself is a simple one. Titled, “How do people express their sexual feelings?” it lists quite a few varied ways to do so. The acts listed range from talking to dancing to massage to oral sex to vaginal intercourse and anal sex — and not in that order. A student at Hocker Grove Middle School in the Kansas City suburb of Shawnee Mission spotted the poster and was shocked, so she took a quick snap of it and showed her dad, Mark Ellis. He thought it was a joke, but when he confronted the school he was informed that it was part of the sex ed curriculum, which is supposedly in line with national guidelines for abstinence education.

While the poster was initially defended by a school official, the superintendent of the district, Dr. Jim Hinson, swiftly removed it after reviewing it, stating that he himself found the poster troubling.

Which side do you fall on? Do you think the words are too explicit for young teenagers, or is this information essential for education?

No way

Many parents were shocked, similar to Ellis, and would have had a similar reaction in his place. “I discovered my own sexual preferences and likes and dislikes as I got older and the more sex I had,” shared Jenna, who is expecting her third child. “I learned about the anatomy, safe sex and how sex works in school. I think it needs to be left at that. Does my kid need to know what anal sex is at that age? No, and I'd be pissed if they came home from school and told me that's what they talked about.”

I’m torn

Rachelle, mom of two, had conflicted feelings about the poster. “At first I was shocked reading this list, but then I realized that kids are having sex at 13,” she told us. “They experiment. It's probably a good thing for them to be taught about these things instead of hearing or doing things with their peers. I do think parents should be made aware of what will be taught in their sex ed classes, though. Some parents want to be in control of how and when their children are taught about sex.”

Fix the presentation

Other moms felt that the poster itself wasn’t offensive, but they weren’t thrilled with its presentation. “Having ‘anal sex’ right next to ‘dancing' is a little off-putting,” explained Jenni, who thought that it would be a better tool if it was tweaked a bit. “Same with ‘vaginal intercourse’ right beside ‘talking.’ Some sort of scale to put the list in ‘order' (for lack of a better word?) might make it seems less jarring.”

Important information

Some moms we spoke to felt that the information presented is realistic and important for kids to learn — yes, even kids as young as 13. “I'm really glad they used examples of all different sex acts and didn't make it heteronormative only,” said Kay, mom of one. “As part of a larger dialogue I think this could work well.”

Kelly, mom of two, felt similarly. “I think this is a great list to go along with a discussion, maybe as a handout,” she said. “I also think it must go hand in hand with wording about consent, respect, safety, reproductive health, pregnancy, etc.”

Tell us

Overall, the responses from the moms we chatted with were a mixed bag, but Ellis is happy that he doesn’t have to take his daughter out of the school, which was possible if the poster didn’t get removed. Where do you fall on this discussion? Should middle school kids be exposed to this sort of sex ed or is this way over the line?

More on kids and sex

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