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Birds and bees, baby. Birds and bees.

Student 24's picture

Last week it hit me that all these discussions about ecological education and literacy and curriculum design are missing (at least) one thing. What happened to Sex. Ed.? Health class? Family Life talks? Self-Care lessons? Sexual education, in my opinion, is one of the most important parts of growing up, learning about your place in the grand natural scheme of things, and creating awareness of choices and decisions about your own physical, social, emotional and spiritual body.

When it comes to outdoor spaces as places of learning and education, I immediately think of birds and bees. I never personally encountered this 'talk' as a child, only having heard it referenced in movies, but out of curiosity I researched a bit about the lessons that are teaching sexual reproduction through natural, outdoors creatures and their actions. The fertilization of flowers bees carrying pollen represents males' ability to "pollenate" females, and egg-laying birds represent female's fertility and eggs. Another way to represent the action is that the bee stings the bird and as a result, the bird lays the eggs from which babies hatch (Yikes! Connotations of aggression, much?). 

This euphemistic fable was created for parents to comfortably answer their children's questions of "where do babies come from?" and "how do you make babies?" The comfort of all this lies in plain sight: using the outdoors. (Exploiting, one could even call it.) Because birds and bees reproduce and aid flowers' reproduction through pollination, respectively, in the great outdoors, these actions are free to be accessed and observed by all (well... "free" and "all"). They occur in the natural public, so to speak, and effectively serve as material from which to create lessons on, for example, human sexual reproduction. I wonder, is the outdoors a platform (platform, classroom, stage, blackboard) to which we should all have access in order to learn life processes? Or, is using the incorrect analogy of birds and bees detrimental as it probably causes confusion to children as to what really goes on in their parents' bedrooms? Should children know, or do they need to know, what sexual reproduction is? Why is it easier to use nonhuman beings and their sex lives than it is to talk about humans?

I sense it has to do with questions of privacy, shame, and respect. We are taught that there are private, personal, and intimate parts of our bodies - and yet, ironically, it is these body parts that are shared universally among human beings and among quite a few nonhuman beings as well! There is a shame and stigma associated with being public with these private parts - perhaps this comes down to personal safety and preventing sexual abuse? And what about the dignity and respect that is bestowed upon those who have successfully kept these parts to themselves?

Why do we not give nonhuman beings these same virtues or expectations or freedoms? Is it because they are less than human and do not know what should be public and displayed in the outdoors, and what is to be kept private? No,I think. Truthfully, we could do with a bit more running around naked in the wild, learning about our functions as human bodies and directly interact with our own body processes and phenomena, rather than averting these responsibilites to the great, public platform that is the unsuspecting outdoors.