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The Boy Scouts Should Teach About Sex

Reading the leaders of the Boy Scouts of America's attempt to rationalize their reaffirmation of their no-gays policy, I was saddened not just by the bigotry but also by the hypocrisy of it all.

Bob Mazzuca and Wayne Perry write that they and other members and parents "do not believe scouting is the right forum for same-sex attraction to be introduced, discussed or demonstrated in any way. Nor does scouting endeavor to teach about sex." But having a ban on gay scouts and scoutmasters does exactly those things they say they're trying to avoid. The policy introduces homosexuality and makes an issue of it by setting forth a warning that gayness is unacceptable in the organization. Even with a dont-ask-don't-tell approach, sexual orientation is still a thing that has to be paid attention to. Scouts who are struggling with their own orientation are on notice that not only is scouting not the place to talk about such things, but that one choice (straight or rigorously closeted) is the only scouting-compatible choice.

More importantly, though, I think that the Boy Scouts should be teaching about sex. Mazzuca and Perry are correct that scouting has a "small window of opportunity to teach lifelong lessons to its youth ...[and] to equip young people with life skills so one day, they can make their own decision about these issues." Sex is a vitally important part of life, and one that scout-age boys are already dealing with in a formative way. For many boys, their scout leaders are among the only responsible male adults in their lives. Moreover, scouts are disproportionately likely to end up in leadership roles in society. It is positively negligent for the organization to try to take a pass on teaching scouts about sexuality.

The devil is in the details of what they teach, of course. It would be worse than nothing if the BSA resurrected the approach of the organization's early years -- I used to have copies of early 20th-century scout handbooks that included long screeds against masturbation. But done responsibly, the BSA has a golden opportunity to teach boys how to respect their own bodies and desires, how to make responsible choices, how to respect the autonomy of partners, how to stand up to rape culture, how to hold other men accountable, how to love themselves. If the BSA isn't interested in helping boys grow into good men, then what is the point of the organization?


Blogger fancycwabs said...

Also, merit badges.

6:58 AM  

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