My Sex “Education”

by naomiparker

It’s no secret that the state of sex education in the United States is problematic. The sex education that our students receive from public schools is something that we can and should work to improve. Today I would just like to bring down the mood a little and talk about my own sex ed. experience.

In 5th grade, our school had the “Hooray, you’re blossoming into adults!” bit of sex ed. Very informative, no shame involved, slightly more flower metaphors than seemed necessary, but all in all a good experience. That summer I started menstruation and felt that I now knew and had experienced everything about being a woman.

In 6th grade, I was enrolled in my church’s abstinence-only sex program. I’m still working on getting past the fear and shame associated with sexual activity and the mistrust of men that the program instilled.

When I returned to school, I was the only one my age who had seen both a penis and a vagina, and knew what they looked like after herpes, genital warts, and syphilis had struck. I was the only one who knew how a late-term abortion was supposedly performed. I knew that if my boyfriend wanted sex (never once was it mentioned that a girl might want sex), he was a bad person waiting to brainwash me into a life of debauchery and misery. I knew that if I ever once masturbated and/or watched pornography I would become hopelessly addicted. I knew that I was likely to get pregnant even if I used a condom and birth control correctly. I knew that there was a “mental burden” associated with a sexual relationship which would eventually destroy me and my relationship with God. And above all, I knew I would never partake in this ghastly “sex” thing. Ever.

Recently I found my stack of abstinence promoting pamphlets and brought them back to college with me. I needed to laugh at them, needed AJ to point out the ridiculously anti-male imagery, needed a very religious and very chaste friend to dismiss them as over-the-top fear-mongering.

I have no conclusions to make here. As progressive as we want to be as a society, this sort of thing still exists. For the record, I am not suggesting that sex should not be taken seriously, nor am I bashing the concept of abstinence. If you are old enough and informed enough to make that decision, then I respect you for it. But I can’t condone this breed of sexual fear-mongering. I also can’t say we have a right to step in and stop it. People will always impart ugly values to their children via ugly methods. I’m just thankful that it’s semi-reversible, and I hope that it never finds its way into our public schools.