Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: The Dangers Of Sex Ed Silence

I recently read a blog post about how a lack of sex education can be negative. The entry, titled “Talking to Kids about Sex”, Ouyang Dan starts off by writing about what having her first period was like. The author had no idea what was happening to her, and thought that she had wet the bed – she likens it to the movie “My Girl”, but it also kind of makes me think of “Carrie”.

What really hits home for me about this blog entry is that it highlights a distinct lack of sex education. The author admits that she had no idea that women’s genitalia had more than one hole until she was pregnant. This is absolutely not a knock at all on Dan – but a knock on sex education.

This hit home for me because I see how easily this could have been me, but I lucked out. I went to an all girls parochial school, and our sex ed was minimal. I do remember hearing things that I quickly learned were false, like that around 50% of condoms break and that abortions can leave you infertile (both untrue). I came home with this information, and my mom was shocked at the misinformation. After all, both of my parents are pretty liberal and I’ve had a copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves since I can remember. I was confused by the things that we were being taught. I distinctly remember my freshmen year health teacher answering a question on birth control, which she later got in trouble for. A girl in my class asked her about birth control options, and in that darkened classroom at the end of the hall, my teacher quietly shut the door. She looked around the room carefully, and then said the words that would get her in trouble; “I can’t talk about that, but there are web sites and places that you can get more information. You can try Planned Parenthood.” She had suggested – the horror! – that we learn more. This woman didn’t kick back, and tell us how awesome sex was and that we should go do it that afternoon, preferably with as many people as possible – she was just trying to encourage us to learn more. I know some girls in my class got most of their sex ed from Seventeen magazine (we passed around the issues at lunch). My school was also not GLBTQ friendly at all.

I’m a huge advocate for comprehensive sex education. I didn’t get it at my school, but I was lucky to have parents that were open minded and talked with me (and I was comfortable enough to talk with them). In my group of friends, I was one of the last to become sexually active. I’m not sure if it’s because of the information my mom felt comfortable sharing with me, or just me as a person. Who knows? I remember my mom teaching me how to put a condom on a banana. She knew I wasn’t sexually active, but she wanted me to be prepared. My mom was realistic and knew at some point, I was going to be sexually active. She also knew that there was a chance I would become sexually active with someone who might not have received proper sex education. When I tell people that my mom taught me how to put on condoms, there’s a good chance that people are shocked. Then I tell them that I teach college students about sex.

The sad thing is that the majority of my students tell me that they didn’t get proper sex education in high school. Statistically speaking, 1 in 4 teenage girls have a sexually transmitted infection. Why aren’t we doing more to protect our youth? This semester, out of about 50 students, three had received what they considered to be “adequate” sex education. THREE. While the majority of my students are sexually active, some aren’t – which I fully support and think is totally normal. I’m just always a little sad that I’m teaching an upper division college class to students that needed this sooner, as they usually tell me. On the up side, at least there is more access to this information and I have a full class of interested students every semester.

Leaving a school that was on one hand, a great school (academically speaking) but also very narrow minded was bittersweet. My school prepared me for college and also gave me some friends that I still have. I still am in contact with a few of my teachers, which is neat to see where their lives have taken them. I’m not ever mad at my parents for sending me there – I know that they sacrificed to give me a great education, and what I didn’t receive there, they made sure I got at home. However, I truly believe the lack of proper sex education at my school led me to study what I do now, and for that I do thank my school. A former classmate of mine started Write Your Principal , partially as a result of bullying she received at my school (which was witnessed by teachers, who did nothing).

What was your sex ed like? Was it accurate? Was it enough? Has it impacted you at all?

About Holly Moyseenko

Holly Moyseenko is a sex educator living in Ohio. She is an advocate of positive and healthy sexuality. Holly currently works for a non-profit health organization as a health educator, and also teaches workshops that focus on many topics within the realm of healthy sexuality. In her spare time, she also is an advocate for survivors of sexual assault, gardens, reads anything within reach, drinks copious amounts of tea, and naps with her two dogs.

  • http://twitter.com/foxyfolklorist Jeana Jorgensen

    This is an interesting topic, which, combined with your personal reminiscences, made for a fascinating post!

    I attended a private school in grades 2-8, and then public high school. I honestly don’t remember if we received any sex education in middle school, though I recall suffering through an informative but embarrassing-because-we-were-teenagers “health” class in the 9th grade (it covered various aspects of health, including sex ed, with topics like male and female anatomy, how pregnancy happened, and things like that… again, fuzzy on the details, but this was an LAUSD public school so I’m guessing they had some requirements to meet).

    My school experience of sex ed was less important than my personal experiences of it, however. I was always an avid reader and I was curious about sex, so I read fiction and nonfiction books about it while I was a young adult. I knew that when I became sexually active, I wanted to be “safe,” which in my mind meant getting on hormonal birth control and using condoms. I don’t think my parents ever sat me down to have a safe sex talk, but that’s probably largely because they knew I was such a voracious reader, and independent enough that I’d reach my own conclusions about what I wanted.

    I think it also helped that I was a really stubborn kid, so I wasn’t going to let anybody pressure me into doing anything I didn’t feel ready for. So even though sex was intriguing–and, notably, not at all stigmatized because my family is pretty liberal and accepting–I didn’t become sexually active until I felt ready, and that meant doing the research on my own about what constituted safe sex. I knew I didn’t want to become pregnant so birth control was a must. I didn’t learn much about STIs until college, though, so that aspect of my sex education could’ve been better early on.

    In conclusion, I’m decently satisfied with the sex ed I received, although I have to acknowledge that a lot of it was due to how I went about pursuing it as an individual. I feel like my case might not be typical, though, so I believe it’s very important to have thorough sex ed for all preteens and teens in both public and private schools, and also to have some system where kids in homeschools or other irregular situations can have access to sex ed materials (for instance, how are kids in religious schools or who are homeschooled by religiously conservative parents supposed to get this kind of information?).

  • http://twitter.com/PRAMITASEN PRAMITA SEN

    This is a very interesting article. Thank you for sharing your personal experiences.

    I was born and raised in India. I attended a co-ed high school. I cannot recall any level of sex education being provided to us. It was sort of a taboo for teachers to discuss sex with students. They discussed the basic anatomy in our biology classes (only that was pertinent to the course work). Beyond that, we received on sex education what-so-ever from our teachers. Reading materials were not available to us either (at least not the educational ones). So, a proper sex ed was not provided.

    At home, my mother taught me the basics (related to a woman’s body). I remember being aware of the phenomena of girls getting their period. But, my mother never discussed sex or topics related to it with me. I recall an incident when I was 17 years old: some senseless slob had littered our building by leaving a used condom on the stairwell (India is known for its aweful littering habits). My mom came home and started complaining about it. I remember going out to peek at the litter just to get an idea what a condom looked like. I know that’s horrible….but that is how I had to work on my sex ed knowledge.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1173150957 Holly Moyseenko Kossover

    This was interesting to read! Thank you. Around what age did you learn basic anatomy in school?

    I just remember a best friend getting her period, and she was raised by her father. There were no tampons or sanitary pads at her house. She wasn’t sure what to do and called my house in tears. She had not ever engaged in intercourse and thought she might be having a miscarriage. My mom went over to help her.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1173150957 Holly Moyseenko Kossover

    Thank you! I had very few open talks with my parents, b/c I was more like you. If I had questions, I knew that I could either ask my mom or just tell her I needed books on certain topics. She is a librarian, so she loves to research. She was also fine with taking me to the library and not looking at what I got (this is also how I passed around soem soft core books to friends – Anne Rice, Anais Nin, etc. I ended up purchasing some Anais Nin books for a friend in high school b/c she was so enamored of mine).

    I totally agree with your point on access to sex ed materials – especially for those who are home schooled. I know in my state, kids that are homeschooled need to take their GED as the state doesn’t consider there to be any sort of acceptable diploma for home schooling. Also, while there are home schooling guidelines, they are more suggestions, and there are no rigid requirements. A student could get away without ever having any sort of sex ed class.