Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sex Ed

An exploration of my sexual education in private, public, catholic, small, large, Protestant, and Catholic schools (I switched schools a fair deal).

My first large, public school I attended from ages 5-7.  Unsurprisingly, I was told exactly nothing about sex or even about reproduction.  I can remember my parents talking about it briefly, but not much was said in general. The biggest thing I remember being told is that even though my parents lived together before they were married that generally was considered bad and not desirable.

From ages 8-11, I attended a small, Protestant, private school.  There was no sex education my first two years there, but when I was 10 and 11, I remember them having an optional class to be attended with parents.  I naturally skipped this, because I was embarrassed that I would have to attend with my mom and/or dad.  I remember hearing stories from friends about how they just talked about anatomy and how sex was just for reproduction.

In junior high, I was still at a small (though slightly larger), Protestant, private school.  And this was I think the most sexual education I got throughout my schooling.  We spent three days both years entirely devoted to sex ed.  The entire school stopped and we attended various classes on various subjects, and for the most part, we got to pick what topics we attended (though some were required).

I remember the one on STDs fairly vividly because we did the glitter exercise (the one where a few people get glitter on their hands and then go out and shake everyone's hand and the glitter transfers).  We also saw fairly horrifying pictures (as seems to be standard in sex ed).  However, and I honestly had forgotten this until I set out to write this post, we did talk about condoms.  This was the only time that sex was spoken of as something that you would want to have and they very specifically told us to always use condoms: even if we didn't want to, even if it didn't feel as good, we were always supposed to use condoms.  This was all very well and good, but they never actually explained what a condom was or how it was used, which I why I forgot I had even learned about them.  I will note though that they never mentioned any other form of protection.

Some of the other classes were actually fairly interesting.  The one on relationships was really actually helpful and surprisingly said: dating (they weren't willing to go as far as saying sleeping) around is fine and a valid choice and we should not judge people who did it.  That was the only time I was ever told that advice.  However some of the classes, like the one on nutrition specifically for women, was mostly bullshit enforcing media's view of women.  Overall though, the classes on eating disorders, all the classes on relationships, and the ones about puberty were genuinely useful and addressed many common myths (though the one on puberty was less than useful since I started puberty at 8 and got my period at 9, and was essentially done with it by the time I got to junior high).

Both years, the whole segment culminated in a school wide assembly about abstinence.  For extremely conservative people I am actually retrospectively impressed with a lot of the things they told us, but it was really unsurprising that it ended in preaching abstinence only.  And then they publicly asked us to raise our hands if we were going to commit to no sex before marriage (I mean our eyes were supposed to be closed, but still).  I raised my hand, oh how naive I was.

Really quickly before moving on, at that school we were also required to take quarter long classes in Media and Relationships, which were absolutely fascinating, because they looked into media and relationship stereotypes and looked pretty deeply into teen/non-married relationships and the conclusions we came to (such as, it's okay to date around) were fairly impressive for such an incredibly conservative school.

My freshman and sophomore years of high school, I went to a medium sized, private, Catholic prep school. It was a very interesting atmosphere, one I hated very thoroughly because their goal was to make me question everything I thought, which frustrated me severely.  Again, in retrospect, I'm really glad that they did teach me this, otherwise I wouldn't have learned till much later.  But, anyway, in regard to sex ed, the only thing we had was a segment in health class sophomore year.  They did the standard anatomy, STDs, and made us watch a live birth and then called it a day.

After sophomore year, I transferred to a large, public high school for my junior and senior years.  We did a small (very small) unit on sex ed in Homeroom.  Junior year, we learning how to put a condom on a banana. And as silly as the lesson was (there was lots of joking), it was the first time I had even actually seen a condom (okay...I guess the used ones we had to clean up after football games probably count...probably).  Our senior year, we did a very stupid, horribly outdated, and incorrect small unit on STIs (it was the first time I had heard them called STIs and at the time was such a joke that I still call them STDs).  That unit was literally the joke of the school for a week afterwards.

This post is already quite long, but I briefly want to touch on the Psychology of Gender class I took with Boyfriend in college.  I'm not a fan of how psychology is applied to many different situations and I believe that the field is years, possibly decades, behind in the areas of gender and disorders.  But, my grudge (because I will admit it is exactly that) against psychology can wait for a different post.  What my biggest problem with the class was that every single thing was taught as fact.  We were taught g-spot/vaginal orgasms don't exist, and thus women don't really enjoy penetration.  Excuse me?  I could you give you directions to find my g-spot.  It's really not that hard, and while penetration is not actually my favorite part of sex, it still feels good.  And no, maybe it doesn't for everyone, and a lot of women's g-spots aren't at all sensitive or even make them uncomfortable or in pain, that very thoroughly doesn't mean it doesn't exist.  We were also taught for weeks and weeks about Freud, who has mostly been disproved in regards to his sexual theories.  It was possibly the most frustrating class I've ever been in.


  1. I feel like part of the problem with the sex ed system in general is that sex is always treated as dirty and unusual, something that you either don't talk about or laugh at. It's never really treated like something that people would actually do for reasons other than peer pressure and procreation.

    They also assume that you will only ever encounter anything but heterosexual penis-in-vagina sex. I didn't know that gay sex was a thing until late junior high (though I had no idea what that might entail) and I didn't start hearing about anything other sex acts until high school. This kind of thing often leads to people thinking they can do anything -but- penis-in-vagina without protection and be fine, or that it isn't -really- sex if it's not PIV.

  2. In my three day seminars, we actually did talk about not PIV sex a little bit, but so thoroughly not in regard to gay sex.