What Sex Ed Should Be Like
I don't remember much about my sex ed class. I attended a handful of different elementary and middle schools, and I remember: (1) the girls being separated from the boys; (2) being shown some kind of cartoon about sperm and eggs; (3) our PE teacher telling us we needed to use deodorant from now on. I also remember leaving the sex ed video being suddenly unsure about whether sex was what made babies. I had thought so going into it, but the movie hadn't said anything about sex, and the animated version of fertilization seemed pretty divorced from two people doing it.
There was, of course, nothing at all about homosexuality, bisexuality, or gender identity or expression. The curriculum basically assumed that when girls grew up and got boobs, they would suddenly be interested in boys, dresses, and makeup. Growing up meant a continued separation of the sexes, and it meant that girls and boys couldn't really be friends after puberty. If you were a "tomboy," you'd grow out of it. Even if the curriculum had included something about homosexuality, the culture in the various working-class suburbs from which I hail would have never allowed it to be taken seriously. If anyone had "come out" in my high school or middle school, they'd have been ostracized and probably beaten to a pulp.
I know that some schools still teach sex ed basically this way, and in other schools it's way more progressive. I was super heartened to stumble on a blog post written earlier this year that translates part of a pamphlet that Dutch girls are given. I was floored by how incredibly progressive and awesome and inclusive it was. Here's my favorite part:
Take the time to figure it out! Are you uncertain whether you’re lesbian? That’s perfectly natural. Often, you’ll know after puberty what you are exactly. In any case, try to enjoy it if you fall in love, whether it’s with a girl or a boy.
Wait, what? Seriously? No big deal either way? Love is love; just enjoy it? Can you imagine having been given something like this when you were a kid? Would it have mattered? And can any of my younger readers talk about what sex ed is like in the U.S. these days?
9/23/2014 01:29:14 am
That pamphlet is amazing. I practically teared up. I can't imagine having gotten that when I was a kid 30 years ago. Wow.
9/23/2014 03:37:13 am
Last time I had sex ed was 8th grade, so about 2002. I remain extremely annoyed at my Bio teacher for spending almost an entire class period telling us about how she was so cool that she was going to give us sex ed with *everything in*, and we should ask her *any questions, no matter how silly.* This included telling a long 'hilarious' story about how a parent came to visit the class one day during sex ed and found that the board said only "HOMOSEXUALITY AND YOU." We never got to "HOMOSEXUALITY AND YOU," probably because she wasted so much time joking about it. (It's been >10 years obviously, but that's how I remember it.)
9/23/2014 12:46:16 pm
I go to an incredibly open and accepting high school, I've been out for over two years and have received no negative messages within school (although my ex did receive from). Middle school was surely not as open and I went to a school that didn't handle bullying very well at all despite being a "no place for hate" school. Even if the school wasn't great, I live in one of the most liberal, happy, and well educated middle sized cities in the country that is overall very accepting.
9/27/2014 01:01:12 pm
I had sex ed in middle school, about 2007, and seem to recall a lot of anatomy coloring pages. I don't think anyone mentioned sexuality, heck, I know I had to learn what sex was from Wikipedia. (I had parents with a charmingly deluded notion that sex ed would teach us what sex was.) Then they made us watch a bunch of videos about how pregnancy would ruin our lives. They didn't mention any sexuality at all--including heterosexuality, which was an interesting take on the whole "sex ed" thing. It was mostly just a class about how drugs are bad and we shouldn't smoke, with a few coloring pages detailing what reproductive organs were where.
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