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Электронное письмо И.С. Кона
Президенту Всемирной сексологической ассоциации
проф. Эли Колмэну от 9 марта 1997 г.
о судьбах сексуального просвещения в России.
The failure of Russian reforms to improve the economic situation produced sharp ideological controversy and, as always, sexuality and sexual culture are used by the communists, extreme nationalists, Russian Orthodox Church and vocal members of "Pro-life" and "Goluba" associations as a scapegoat. They are successfully promoting a moral panic.
The main arguments - all this is Western, non-Orthodox, anti-Russian, and deliberately subversive, aimed to degrade historical Russian culture and physically exterminate the nation by reducing its birth-rate, with such means as abortion, contraception, sexual excesses, masturbation and homosexuality. Exactly the same arguments have been used by reactionary Russian thinkers of the 19th and early 20th century. All this is supported by wild imagination and lies. One of their main targets is Russian Planned Parenthood Association. Since 1991 it is the only organization that did something to reduce the high rate of abortion and to promote some sexual knowledge and contraceptive culture. Now it is denounced by Christian fundamentalists as a "satanic institution", propagating abortion and depopulation. The official slogan of RPPA "The birth of healthy and wanted children, responsible parenthood" was presented in "Pravda" and religious newspapers as "One child in a family". The booklet "Your friend condom", which has been published for young adults and teens, is described as if it was addressed to the first grade children. The influential priests publicly tell that IPPF is financed by the US and British governments and in the same time - that it is formally banned by President Clinton.
Another target is school sex education. There is not and never been any systematic sex education in Russian schools. An attempt to introduce a special course in the early 1980s was welcomed by the parents but failed because teachers were not prepared. In all public opinion polls since 1989, the predominant majority of adult population, from 60 to 90 %, depending upon age and social background, strongly supported school sex education, with only 3 to 20% against. In Russian families intergenerational taboos on sexuality are very strong. According to a representative survey, only 13 % of parents have ever talked with their children about sexual matters. In the Russian mass media there is a lot of soft porn and cheap erotica but no scientific information. So the kids are left alone with their problems.
Thanks to medical efforts, the abortion rate has declined in the recent years. According to official figures, in 1990 women aged 15 to 49 reported having 114 abortions for 1000 women, in 1992 -98, in 1995 - 74. Nevertheless it is still very high. According to reliable surveys, sexual behaviors and attitudes of urban adolescents are rapidly changing. In 1993 25% of 16 years-old girls and 38 % of boys have had coital experience; in 1995 the respective figures were already 33% and 50%. Among 17 year-olds, the respective growth is from 46% to 52% (females) and from 49% to 57% (males). The absolute figures are comparable to the US and West European but in Russia the change is very fast, adolescent sexuality is strongly related to social class and it is often violent and aggressive. Uncivilized and uncontrollable early sexual activity has serious moral and epidemiological consequences. According to official medical statistics, the number of syphilis infected people younger than 19 has increased in the last 5 years more than 30 times. Child prostitution is flowering. For about 10% of teenage girls their first sexual initiation is associated with some degree of compulsion. There is an enormous growth of STDs, especially syphilis, and AIDS.
So a systematic sexual education is long overdue in Russia. At the demand of Russian Ministry of Education, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in collaboration with UNESCO gave a grant for 3 years experimental work in 16 selected schools, to develop a workable curricula and textbooks "for classes 7, 8 and 9, considering the importance that young people should be able to make informed and responsible decisions before reaching the age of potentially starting sexual activities". There was no cultural imperialism or an attempt to invent something uniform and compulsory for the whole country. In the introduction to the project it is emphasized, that "to ensure cultural acceptability, curricula and text-books will be developed by Russian experts, making use of knowledge and experience from several countries, and with the input of technical assistance from foreign experts".
The project was initiated in October 1996. Its first step was a sociological monitoring, trying to assess sexual values and attitudes of children, parents and teachers of a few pilot schools, on a strictly voluntary basis. Similar control was planned also for the next stages of the experiment. Unfortunately, Ministry of Education officials, without consulting the experts, made a fatal mistake: they declared the beginning of such a delicate work without an adequate political and psychological preparation. Even worse, the Ministry sent to 30.000 schools a package of 5 self-made, negligently edited, never approved in the classrooms and unrealistic (some of them of them require more than 300 class hours) "alternative sex education programs". These programs had nothing in common with the "UNESCO project" but they are perceived as a part of it. So before it was even born, the project came under a heavy attacks as a Western ideological subversion against Russian children. An aggressive group of Pro-Life activists made a complaint to the Parliament's strongly anti-Yeltsin's National security committee. In some Moscow district towns people have been asked in the streets: "Do you want children to be taught in school how to make sex? If not, please, sign the petition to ban this devilish project". Some priests and activists tell their audiences that al l bad things in Western life are rooted in sex education, that Western governments are trying now to ban or eliminate it, and only a corrupt Russian government, at the instigation of world "sexological-industrial complex", is acting against the best interests of the country. All this is supported with "scientific" data. For example, it is said that in England, at the instigation of irresponsible sexologists, boys begin masturbation at 9 ,and at 11 years they are already completely impotent.
At an important round-table in the Russian Academy of Education, March 6, the influential priests declared that we don't need sex education at all: it was always done successfully by the Church, up to 80% of confession time is dedicated to sexual matters. Some prominent members of the Academy ( A.Khripkova, V. Mukhina, N. Nikandrov, I. Dubrovina) also attacked "Western" spirit. As Dr. Khripkova has put it, "we don't need Netherlands' experience, we have our own traditional wisdom". President of the Academy Dr. Arthur Petrovsky strongly dissociated himself from this nationalist position as well as from the suggestions to re-introduce moral censorship. But general decision was to postpone the project and instead of the "sexual education" to make efforts to improve moral education "with some elements of sex education" (this formula was used in 1962). The vicious campaign in mass media continues. At the insistence of some communist members of Parliament, the Attorney General office has began a criminal investigation against the Ministry of Education, questions about sexual anatomy in an anonymous questionnaire for pilot schools being considered as a "depravity" and "child sexual abuse" (seduction). Council of Federation's committee discussed this issue as an example of Western secret services subversive activities in Russia.
Freedom of artistic expression and mass media is also under attack. State Duma has just approved in the first reading a law limiting the distribution and selling of the products, services and performances of a sexual nature. Its intention is to control the spread of pornography and commercial erotica, especially among minors. But the most difficult issue of any similar legislation is the differentiation between pornography and erotic art. In the draft law, prepared by professionals, this was taken into account. Yet later legislators deleted this limitation and instead of "unclear" concept of erotica introduced the notion "products of a sexual nature", which is defined as " the products of mass media, any other printed and audiovisual products, including advertising, messages and materials, transmitted and received by the computer networks, as well as different things and means, satisfying the needs, related to sexual drive, with the exception of medical drugs and the products for medical purposes". This definition is legally and scientifically meaningless. Everything can be used or interpreted in a sexual way. For a Greek youth who secretly copulated with the Aphrodite statue, the sculpture was definitely a "sexual production", just as was Guido Reni's St. Sebastian for Yukio Mishima. Does it mean that these objects of art and their reproduction should be distributed only in the "special places" and children should be banned from the Hermitage museum? According to this draft law, Nabokov's "Lolita" should be banned from any public library. If this law is finally accepted, Russian art and culture shall be once again in the mercy of corrupt state officials and of their subservient and ignorant "experts".
The fight is going on.
© И.С. Кон
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