Thursday, December 18, 2014

Zizi sexuel!

Zizi sexuel (wee-wee sex) (If you can't tell, I am blushing from behind the screen.) This is the name of an expo that's being held at the Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie in Paris. Not only is this an entire expo on sexuality for young people, but there's also a component where the schools organize field trips to the Cité to learn more about sexuality. It's the second time I've seen it in Paris, and it's got a controversy following it.

Themes the expo explores and give children are around the essential value of love, intimacy, the mystery of love, the anatomy of a man and woman, the "secret" of puberty, masturbation, consensual sex, sexually transmitted diseases, and equality between men and woman.

One of the more controversial aspects is a section on breaking gender stereotypes by telling boys and girls, "you can choose your gender." Just because you were born one, you can choose to be another.

This program is hotly debated and contested by major right-wing associations. While France proudly claims it's a laïc state (secular state), it is also, traditionally, a very Catholic country. I have to say, for such a secular state, I've never seen so many major official holidays also be major Catholic ones. For example: all schools have a two-weeks holiday for Toussaint (All Saint's Day). It's quite incredible. And the largest demonstrations I've seen over the past year, by the largest traditional Catholic association MANIF Pour Tous, have been anti-gay-marriage and, well, basically anti-anything if it isn't about just a man, a woman, and their children together.

The extreme-right Association SOS Education got 30,000 signatures to protest what's being exhibited  at Zizi sexuel claiming, among other things, that the expo is pointless, that this 1/2-day field trip should not be used for this sort of subject and masturbation should not be taught to children.

Controversy aside, I've never seen an entire expo devoted to helping children explore and learn about their changing bodies and the universe of topics stemming from these changes. I think if it's approached thoughtfully and carefully by parents, it could be a great moment to expose this part of growing up to their children. It seems a good way to take control of a topic that can normally get out-of-control quickly with so much exposure on social media and by peers.

Using a famous French cartoon character, Tifeuf, the cartoonist Zep creates visuals that reminded me of the books I'd been given when I was starting puberty: Where Did I Come From? and What's Happening To Me? The site itself is colorful and features the same cartoon characters from the pub (publicity) in different stories explaining about being in love, puberty, making love, making a baby, and "open your eye" to the dangers of certain predators. I'm quite curious about the flip-books they offer for sale (also available on the internet) demonstrating "the kiss/making love," "puberty" (boy and girl versions), and "tits / sperm"!

The field trips for the classes don't start until CM1 (Fourth Grade), which is a little young, but then again, kids these days seem to be exposed to more than we were in our youth and experiment earlier. I am hoping I have a few more years before I need to get into this stuff with my 5-year old...although he already has a girlfriend who caresses his neck, arms, cheeks...and gives him kisses. (uh oh!)

The site has an English-language feature but sorry there is no info on Zizi sexuel en anglais.