A while ago Khatia Akhalaia from the “Education and Labour Association” published an educational video detailing female genitalia for young people. What she got in response was either unconditional praise for her courage or threats of violence for apparently corrupting the youth and propagandizing foreign and dangerous ideas of adultery.
Well, the accusation is as old as time. Remember Socrates? He was persecuted for the same reasons in slightly different times. Millennia have passed since his presence in Athens but the fear of corruption prevails still, taking different forms in different societies.
In Georgia the fear has taken the form of sex, leading to the standoff between the church with understandably conservative ideas and more liberal organizations demanding both personal and sexual freedom.
Khatia Akhalaia was just unfortunate enough to get in between the centuries-old debate. But is it right to label her either as a progressive Messiah or a corrupting Devil? What she tried to do is raise awareness about a controversial subject and in that, her objective was fulfilled.
As the conservative part of Georgian society often complains about under-representation, this article will try to look at their concerns and present what they have to say.
“The results of a lack of sex education” revived the question: should Sex Ed be introduced as a subject for kids to learn?
One side of the debate views Sex Ed as propaganda of free love and apparent moral degradation of our generation. Described as the complete opposite of familial and religious values, sex education is most feared by parents who feel they might lose touch with their offspring’s personal lives. Often enough they fear that sex ed equals “lessons on how to have sex before marriage ” and promotes experimenting with one’s sexuality.
Birth control is viewed as one of the key factors in decreased demographics. In the society where the Patriarchate supports the idea of bigger families, contraception spurs fears for the nation’s future.
Interesting to see is the reasoning behind the fear of sex in Georgia. Let’s take a look at possible causes:
“We have no sex in the Soviet Union”
“There’s no sex in the Soviet Union” the phrase used as a mere joke today represented the policy applied to societies living within the USSR. Sex was considered necessary evil just for the purpose of reproduction. Another prevailed joke in Georgia depicts a man apologizing to his wife for “disturbing her” with this burden, maintaining that he only does it “for the sake of the child”.
This Orwellian fantasy was a reality for my Soviet ancestors. The world they lived in had to be completely de-sexualized. Sexuality was presented as shameful and unnatural, completely unfitting to a Soviet citizen.
Contrary to that, chastity before marriage was propagandized. A Soviet Sex Ed book from 1979 calls masturbation “a wandering act of hands”, something to be suppressed before marriage.
Years of Soviet propaganda did not fade away with the collapse of the Union: shame has rooted itself too deep and it is not surprising that my grandparents are still aversed by the notion of premarital sex and contraception.
“You shall not commit adultery”’
The majority of Georgians identify themselves as Orthodox Christians and the Church establishment enjoys considerable influence in the secular country. So it should not be surprising that “Christian values”are often used as an argument against sex ed.
And well, chastity or abstaining from sexual intercourse before marriage is Christian values, whether we like it or not. Sex outside of marriage is prohibited in 10 commandments and lust is one of the 7 deadly sins. No wonder that promoting freedom of exercising lustful acts is seen as a one-way ticket straight to hell.
Taking this into consideration it is plain to see why Christians in the country would look at Sex Ed with mistrust and fear.
Fear and mistrust are one thing, but the alarming pattern of backlash Khatia Akhalaia got for her video is a completely different story: Could threats of stoning, raping and mutilating a human being be justified by any (religious or not) definition of morality at all? Well, it is usually preferred to avoid this question.
Let me ask another question: is sex education really, really that scary? Does it automatically mean that every person who knows about it should go and engage in sexual acts? Of course not. What sexual education can provide is basics about hygiene and safety for teenagers.
I was a lucky kid born in the family of gynecologists and had access to all the answers I needed about my reproductive health. But not every child has a parent who knows how everything inside us really works. Basic sex education in children could fill the gap for them and they wouldn't have to believe tell-tales and have unrealistic expectations about reproduction, be it inside or outside of marriage.
Apart from that, sex education brings safety to children, helping them to distinguish between what is appropriate and inappropriate, equipping them with basic knowledge on how to react to grooming and the need to talk about it.
The big question now is how to broadcast information in a sensitive way. The idea of a potential school subject caused controversy, as people failed to understand what exactly the curriculum would hold.
Different countries apply various approaches to the subject of sex ed. In many cases it is non-compulsory and resembles counseling, providing children with professional staff competent enough to answer their questions in subtle ways. Relevant topics of sex ed are also integrated into the curricula of biology, religion and social sciences. Often enough, schools rely on external help from nurses and non-governmental organizations.
There is a thin line between unbiased transmission of information and propaganda. Exactly that thinness scares many people. But the need of knowing what our bodies are all about is equally acknowledged by young and old in the society.
The controversy in Georgia showcased the need for dialogue and toned-down understanding of each other’s arguments. Again, Khatia Akhalaia is neither a savior nor a villain. What is clear to see is that sexuality is part of us all, of the pious and of the atheist alike. And what Sex Ed could provide is answers to questions about our very nature. The rest, be it abstinence or free love, is a personal choice.