Sexual Education in Cuba

By Carlos Fraguela

The documentary series Sex mundi.
The documentary series Sex mundi.

HAVANA TIMES — We could well say that we have no sexual education in Cuba, that the thinking surrounding this issue continues to be medieval, for it has yet to place itself in step with the times and, like all taboos, all we can continue to expect is for sex-related issues to be swept under the carpet.

Improving the sexual wellbeing of the population is also not in the interests of those who decide and manage what materials are made available to the population. After all, that could ultimately work against their own interests.

Cuban society continues to reproduce a backward model which excludes a broad spectrum of sexual preferences caught sight of in the island’s current population.

It would be far less hypocritical to acknowledge that the rigid, monogamic, heterosexual family – that once monolithic unit – has ceased to suit the needs and interests of most people around the world.

Acknowledging the broad diversity of preferences that characterizes the majority would put an end to the tyrannical domination of human beings, who have the right to choose whatever kind of life they wish.

A friend lent me a documentary series titled Sex Mundi. The series could well spark off a sexual revolution if it were shown on television here as a kind of invitation to Cubans, who could rediscover and enrich their sex lives and acquire a sense of belonging. Cuban television programs dealing with sexual matters strike me as very limited in comparison.

The documentary is very straightforward about different issues and advances a number of proposals on the basis of different sexual customs documented around the world. Unabashedly, it documents a highly heterogeneous series of tendencies and presents these as concrete examples of human diversity, accompanying this exploration with critical comments and interviews with experts on human sexuality.

How many people in Cuba, today, feel excluded, feel like oddballs, for failing to meet the expectations of a twisted and backward society? Individuals need to break with the prejudiced schemes of the past in order to be free, at least in this one dimension of our lives that no one can meddle in today. Morality is an enemy of sexual freedom and does not cease to demonize it.

I’ve heard say that, back in the days of the Military Units for Production Support, Cuba’s notorious UMAP forced-labor camps (where homosexuals and political dissidents were sent to in the 1960s), one of leaders of the revolution (I don’t remember who) travelled to an Asian country to ask for advice on how to deal with the “problem of homosexuality.”

In that country, the official was told, in a very straightforward manner, that they simply clubbed homosexuals to death and dropped them in the river, for everyone to see – that this had made such a deep impression on people that it had eliminated the “problem.” I think the Cuban official was horrified by the anecdote and I don’t think that piece of advice was of much use to the Cuban government (though the two countries continue to be allies).

For the longest time, those in power have controlled, humiliated, judged and even eliminated those who fall outside the heterosexual canon.

Who is unaware of what the majority of Cuban police officers think about homosexuals, transvestite, prostitutes and even black people (who are always harassed by them)? All of us are aware of how these figures of authority – part of the repressive apparatus, when all is said and done – operate. I am not saying they are the ones to blame for our situation, they are merely ignorant.

Sexuality is a liberating, not a limiting, force. Responsible sex connects us to other human beings and can teach us a lot about the value of life, mitigating sadness and raising our self-esteem.

2 thoughts on “Sexual Education in Cuba

  • Official US attitudes toward sex used to be puritanical, but lately it’s swung the other way. In some school boards, primary school children are shown how to put on condoms, using bananas. Discussion of gay, transexual and other sexual modes are discussed. There are still some puritanical holdouts, but those are shrinking. Mass media is overwhelmed with the hyper-sexualization of entertainment (see Milly Cyrus, Rhianna, Beyonce, etc). Many Americans are beginning to feel the change has gone too far, with the emphasis on “if it feels good, do it” without any concern for the consequences, or self-responsibility or self-respect.

    I hadn’t heard before of the anecdote of the Cuban official who travelled to an Asian country and asked about how they deal with homosexuals. I have read that Raul Castro once asked a high official in Romania if they had problems of hippies & homosexuals among the youth. He was told the Romanian solution was to round up such misfits and stuff them into labour camps. Thus the Cuban UMAP camps were born.

  • Don’t ask us Americans. We have just as many hang-ups about sex as anyone else on the planet. The U.S. opinion of sex is often regarded as being Puritanical with public and private schools most often ignoring the subject except to tell teenagers not to have sex and, if you do, to have safe sex by using condoms. Fortunately, you can buy condoms at any drugstore, by mail order or by the Internet. The same taboos apply to homosexuality and other forms of human sexuality. The fact that the U.S. probably produces the greatest share of X-rated films and publications shows our interest in sex, but it’s most often privately viewed or read. Public opinion about homosexuality is changing rapidly and many States now allow homosexuals to marry, but there are still a lot of phobias about sexuality and the majority of the U.S. population tends to be uncomfortable to discuss it publicly. It’s important to note that our First Amendment rights as American citizens does give us the freedom or right to read, produce, film, and view most things about sex and sexuality with the exception of under age pornography which is prosecuted under U.S. law for the protection of children under age 18. Sexual exploitation unfortunately is an industry that continues to exist throughout the world and should be vigorously prosecuted.

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