Once upon a time at Youth Group Camp, we were taught a very interesting lesson about sex. Our teacher took out two chocolate bars and told us one represented Meghan, and the other represented Sarah. The teacher unwrapped Meghan’s chocolate bar and passed it around the class, inviting all the boys to take a bite. After four or five passes, it became soggy and disgusting, and no one else wanted a bite. The teacher took it back, then offered both Meghan’s gross partial bar and Sarah’s still-wrapped one to one of the boys, explaining he could keep whichever one he chose. The boy of course chose Sarah’s bar, and the teacher told us that if we had sex with multiple people or before marriage, we would end up like Meghan’s chocolate bar, but if we kept ourselves pure until marriage, we would remain whole and find good husbands.
This baffling and incredibly sexist lesson is the inspiration for this week’s #FeministFriday:
Sex education is frighteningly inadequate.
Our government representatives are evidence of this alone, but even ordinary people are wandering around uneducated. I live in a state with some of the top-rated schools in the country, and had a mixed experience of attending both public, and private Catholic schools. Yet somehow, I still managed to miss out on a lot of important information, including why any cognitive adult thought a chocolate bar was an appropriate representation for human sexuality.
Sex education is extremely important, but most programs either preach abstinence and ignorance, or think that tossing handfuls of condoms and scientific terms with little explanation is enough to suffice. It’s not. In fact, my entire K-12 formal sex education can be condensed into two points.
Things I learned about sex in my public middle school health class:
- Getting your period means you’re not pregnant
Things I learned about sex in my Catholic high school health class:
- Every conceivable disease you can catch from having it
This is the absolute bare minimum amount of data you can provide and still consider the class sex ed. Furthermore, the actual health part of health class was completely lacking apart from learning the ABCs of STDs. The education system failed to educate me about my own body.
Things I never learned in any health class:
- The different methods of effective birth control.
- The blood loss from your period can make you anemic.
- When you’re on your period, your lower back hurts because your hips are contracting and spreading apart slightly to make room for the lining of your uterus. Essentially, your body is going through a mild labor to push out the dead insides of one of your internal organs.
- Viagra has a higher mortality rate than abortions.
- The necessity of regular gynecological exams.
- What to expect at the OB-GYN.
- What constitutes consent.
- How to withhold consent.
- How to respect your partner’s lack of consent.
- How to report rape or abuse.
- Anything about homosexual, asexual, or transgender identity.
- What Plan B actually does.
- Girls on their periods are not simply untouchable rage monsters.
- Condoms are only effective at preventing pregnancy and disease about 82% of the time.
- The services offered at Planned Parenthood.
- Antibiotics, migraine medication, ascorbic acid, St. John’s wort, and even some types of dandruff-treating shampoos can interfere with the effectiveness of birth control pills.
- Pubic hair is normal on everyone.
- Girls aren’t actually supposed to bleed the first time.
- Period cramps hurt more than “mildly” and many forms of birth control can alleviate cramps and other symptoms of PMS.
- How to talk to your partners about STDs.
- Masturbation is normal, and female masturbation exists and is also normal.
- Homosexual safe sex practices.
- How to prevent Urinary Tract Infections.
- How to handle a pregnancy scare.
- How to perform a self-breast examination.
- Anything about the female orgasm.
- The range of normalcy for appearances of genitals.
- The anatomy of genitals.
- Using “feminine hygiene products” kills off naturally occurring bacteria, leading to a pH imbalance and yeast infections.
- The difference between sex (biological) and gender (social construct).
- Sexuality and sex drive is normal and should be a source of curiosity and exploration.
- Having consensual sex doesn’t make you a bad person.
There are probably a lot of things I missed on this list pertaining to cis male practices and anatomy, but I never learned those, either.
There are countless debates about sex education and what information is and isn’t appropriate to expose children to, but each year there are 750,000 teen pregnancies, and 9.1 million reported cases of STDs in people under 25. It’s a scary topic to talk about, but hushing everything up about it doesn’t make it any easier. Withholding information — any information — that will keep young people healthy is irresponsible.
Please leave any questions or comments below, and see you next week!