Okay, now that I have your undivided attention we can have a conversation.
Sexual education (or, sex ed) can be dated all the way back to the late nineteenth century. However, sex ed wasn’t a regularly taught program in public schools until the 1970s.
Today, sex ed is still a given in public schooling. However, it doesn’t always prioritize sexual health. At my high school, we were taught abstinence and not much else. I remember my ninth grade health teacher—Mr. Harvey, I’ll never forget him—using scare tactics to keep us from having sex. He would recount horror stories of his “roommates” in “college” who had crabs, gonorrhea, syphilis, and AIDS and how they all “died” from their STDs.
Clearly he was exaggerating for effect, but it worked. For the next four years, I would be terrified of letting anyone come near me with a cold sore—God forbid I go home with herpes. I had boyfriends during high school but didn’t kiss a boy until I was sixteen (and I didn’t even initiate the kiss!).
Now all this was nearly eight years ago. Today I’m twenty-two years old and in a very sexually healthy relationship.
I am a bisexual cis female living with vaginismus. What does all that mean? It means that biologically and emotionally I am a woman, who loves men and women, who physically can’t have penetrative sex.
“But you just said you’re in a sexually healthy relationship!” You may be pondering to yourself. Yes, I am. We just don’t have intercourse. What no one likes to talk about is that there are other ways to have sex besides penis-in-vagina. Which is quite peculiar because it was bashed into our heads as young teens that “sex is bad,” but they never gave us any safe alternatives (even though penetrative sex is perfectly safe if everyone is consenting and protected).
Something that is definitely not taught in classrooms today, but most certainly should be, is alternative relationships to the “boy-girl” relationship. Homosexual couples, asexual couples who still desire intimacy, couples dealing with endometriosis and/or vaginismus—the list goes on and on.
I knew about gay people from an early age because my neighbors growing up were two married women. They had three beautiful children that were conceived through artificial insemination, and they used to babysit me when my parents were at work. But, being four years old, I assumed that Chris and Annette just willed a baby into existence and *poof* Nicholas was born. It’s almost embarrassing, but I didn’t learn until many years later (when I was about eleven or twelve) that two women could not, in fact, conceive a baby together just by wishing and hoping.
It wasn’t until I was well into my senior year of high school that I even knew asexuality existed. It was so ingrained in me that “boys will do whatever they can to get sex from you.” It never occurred to me that maybe some people didn’t actually want to have sex, or even kiss or hold hands.
Not to mention all of the different genders and sexualities there are! The possibilities are virtually endless. You can be non-binary and only like cis women. You can be a trans man and be gay. You can be genderfluid and pansexual. Literally, anyone can be anything and love anyone (which is amazing and beautiful).
Here’s the tea: sex ed is not comprehensive. Even today in 2018, it isn’t as well rounded as it could—and should—be. In 2010 I was taught abstinence until marriage, and even then that I might still die from AIDS. I was taught that I should never leave my drink unattended at a party because men are dirt and will only try and drug and rape me.
Sex ed and sexual health are so crucial for kids aged 13-18. Kids are starting to explore their sexuality sooner and sooner (thanks to the media, but that’s a whole other conversation). There are children who are discovering they don’t feel like their biological sex and get to live their best life from an early age. That’s bonkers and AMAZING!
Health classes need to acknowledge that 1) not everyone has sex the same way. Some people don’t have sex at all, or don’t have penetrative sex, or have all different kinds of sex; 2) women are not fragile and men are not (all) bastards. Teach boys not to rape rather than teach girls how not to be raped; 3) every person is valid regardless of their sexuality or gender identity; and 4) birth control exists! Oh my gosh, I didn’t know what birth control was until I was fifteen and I was prescribed it for my irregular periods. Not only the pill, but IUDs, NuvaRings, condoms, sponges, and so many other options are out there for people to have safe, protected sex.
Bottom line? Educated children are safe children.
For more information on safe sexual health and education, check out Planned Parenthood!
Image from The Voorhes