I'm All For Sex Education in Schools but This is Going too Far

I just came across a story about a teacher who took her junior high aged students to a sex shop for a sex ed class. Yep, that's right. The director of the Gaia Democratic private school in Minneapolis took a group of 12 students to Smitten Kitten adult toy boutique on a field trip. Wow, I wish I had had sex ed like that.

There no warning to parents, no note home, no permission slip - just kids coming home and saying 'hey Mom, guess what I learned in school today?'. Not surprisingly, a bunch of the parents are pretty pissed. I just can't imagine what this teacher was thinking when she decided this would be a good idea. As a store owner, what I truly can't grasp is what the owner of the store was thinking when she let this happen.

Don't get me wrong. I actually love the attitude. I love that both this teacher and store owner thought it would be a good for the kids to see some toys and learn a bit about sexual pleasure. Smitten Kitten is a store much like the Tickle Trunk. It sells quality products and focuses on sexual health and education over sensationalism and sales. I too believe that it is perfectly reasonable, and actually helpful, for teenagers to be exposed to this kind of thing. In a perfect world, I'd have junior and senior high school field trips through my store too.

HOWEVER, we don't live in that perfect world. We live in a world that thinks that sex is too shocking, scary, and inappropriate for teenagers and young adults and that sex toys and porn are dirty and will corrupt them. We live in a world that seeks to shelter and protect kids rather than education and prepare them. Both of these women know this and they had to have known touring them through a dildo store would not go down well. Didn't they?

If I had a teacher come to me and say that she'd like to bring her class to tour my shop I would say, 'So would I, but sadly, that can't happen.'

It's not just the fact that parents will freak the fuck out - and they have. It's that it's actually illegal in most places in North America to do this. In Minneapolis, there are ordinances against exposing anyone under 18 to sexually explicit material and allowing minors into stores that sell adult merchandise. Owner of the store, Jennifer Pritchett, has brought a shitstorm down on herself. Whereas noone seemed to have any sort of issue with Smitten Kitten before - and it's been in business for more than 10 years - now the city wants her to make a bunch of changes to her store in order to bring it into compliance with the ordinances. She was existing quietly and peacefully before and now she's got eyes on her that could make her business life miserable.

I know I sound like a total chicken shit in saying that she shouldn't have allowed this, even though it was probably a good thing to do, because she's going to suffer consequences for it. Shouldn't I, of all people, applaud her for doing this because she thinks it's right? No, for two reasons. First of all, as much as I don't agree with parents who want to 'protect' their kids from all things sexual, I do think they should, at the very least, be aware of what's going on in the school as much as possible, so they can be prepared to talk to their kids about it. I don't think it was fair to the kids or the parents to bring the kids in there without their knowledge and permission. Pritchett is quoted as saying that she leaves it up to parents or guardians to decide if they think it's appropriate for their kids to be in there - but it sounds like the parents didn't even know. She should have checked that there was some additional oversight on this plan and that parents knew, before she agreed.

Second, she could end up losing her business license over this. This is why I don't do it. Stores like the Smitten Kitten and The Tickle Trunk (and Good for Her and Come As You and Venus Envy etc) provide a very real and important service to their communities. They provide a place where people can get accurate, inclusive, information about sex and pleasure and can find safe things to play with. They are a part of the sexual health of their communities. If they lose their business licenses, the community loses that very important resource. I do think that people under 18 need good resources but if I allow them into my store and I lose my business license because of it, I can't be a resource to anyone at all anymore. I don't agree with it, but if I want to provide any kind of service at all, I have to comply with it.

This teacher is also the director of the school so its possible that her job might be secure. I am pretty sure that if a teacher in Edmonton did something like this, they would be on probation so fast it would make your head spin. There is a vocal minority of parents in Edmonton that are so freaked out about sex that I wouldn't be surprised if lawsuits would be launched over something like this.

I hope Pritchett doesn't have any more problems resulting from this, that people just relax and realize no harm was actually done and can just trust her not to do it again. And then, a long, long time into the future when the effects of better sex education have had time to affect an entire generation, we will be allowed to welcome teenagers into our progressive, sex-positive shops.




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