Let’s Talk About Sex

Salt n Pepa with DJ Spinderella circa 1991

Salt n Pepa with DJ Spinderella circa 1991
You know that’s what’s going through your mind right now

When I was in fifth grade, the boys and girls in my public school were divided by gender so we could watch “The Film.” The anticipation of this film FAR exceeded its cinematic value. We’d heard astounding tales of how our lives would be forever changed by the information we would learn.

We had a moment of excitement when one girl threw up. There was a stomach bug going around. Other than that, I was pretty annoyed when it was over. Seriously? That’s what all the fuss was about? I had an older sister. I was already well-versed on hormones and periods.

Then in seventh grade, we were again separated by gender for health class. We learned about good eating habits, proper hygiene and how to tape a sprained wrist. We also had a technical, yet thorough, discussion about how babies are made. We learned about birth control, and the mechanics of how it worked. I won’t lie, there was a lot of uncomfortable giggling.

Coach told us plainly that not a single one of us were ready to have sex. She also told us our parents and preachers probably had some strong ideas about when we might be. We should look to them for guidance on that point.

If we had questions, we should ask our parents. If we couldn’t talk to them, then an aunt or other trusted family member was a good reference. If none of those options were available, she made herself available to us. We should never, under any circumstance, take a boy’s “word for it.”

We walked away from that class empowered. No one could trick us. We were in charge of our bodies, no one else. All the shame and guilt I learned about human sexuality came from other sources, mostly church.

By contrast, 30 years later, an OBGyn friend of mine was asked to speak to a group of seventh grade girls. It was supposed to be a pep talk about paying attention in math and science classes so they could be doctors, engineers or anything at all.

Obviously, they didn’t have my coach for health class. Once the girls found out she was a lady doctor, they began pelting her with questions. Almost all of them began, “What does it mean when a boy asks you to…?” My hand to God, she had to Google some of the slang. It was pretty terrifying.

All of this is by way of introduction of my complete and total amazement about a piece opposing sex education in public schools written last week by an apparently popular radio host and blogger. He’s no fan of sex education.

By the way, how come the ONLY time anyone uses the word “wedlock” is when someone is out of it?

This is the crux of his argument:

“Comprehensive sex education” is a sham and a joke. It’s also more than just a little creepy. If an adult in ANY OTHER CONTEXT came up to your child and tried to strike up a conversation about ”self-pleasure” or “oral sex,” you’d likely have … uh… “words”… with him, and then words with the police.

I fail to see much of a difference.

Really? His failure to see a difference is where his argument comes up short. We’re not talking about some random adult walking up to your kids and chatting. Yes, that would be creepy.

We’re talking a teacher, using proper vocabulary, giving straightforward information. Why is that scary or inappropriate? It’s not.

He cites a lot of statistics as evidence that America is going to Hell in a hand basket. This is apparently because once you say sex out loud…well, Katy, bar the door.

There is a public health component to sex we cannot ignore. Understanding how disease is spread and prevented is a critical component to improving public health. Ignorance is not protection. Ignorance is vulnerability to misinformation.

In order to stop myths and locker room legends, it makes perfect sense for there to be a place in public school for sex education. It’s in all of our interests to have an informed population.

He argues that is the job of parents, not schools. That’s a false choice. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. The education I got at school complemented what my parents were doing. The teaching didn’t contradict them or undermine them in any way. In fact, it was just the opposite. My teachers reinforced that my parents were the people in my life to give me moral guidance, no one else.

On some level, I get where he’s coming from. I understand the temptation to put your kid in a bubble and pretend he’s never going to have any of the normal urges that are part of human sexuality. I mean, I changed his diaper, how could he ever want to do those things? Those mind-blowingly awesome things?

He’s precious and innocent. Except…not forever. He’s going to grow up. It’s best he know the truth about himself and others.

Perhaps, a better approach is one really well articulated by the mother of three boys. She advocates a much saner approach than the head-in-the-sand hysteria previously expressed.

Sex matters. It’s the most vulnerable thing you’ll ever do with another human being. Commitment breeds intimacy, and intimacy is what makes sex freaking amazing. I’m not gonna lie, you can have hot sex outside of a committed relationship – but mostly it’s gonna be like… clumsy… and goopy… and ew. The better you know your partner, the better your sex will be. … So go ahead and wait. Wait and enjoy the waiting, and then bask in all those learning experiences with your most trusted friend.

See, we can talk about sex without losing our minds. We can acknowledge that it’s a big deal. But it’s not, as she writes, “the biggest deal of all the deals ever.”

We’re talking about the facts of life here. And facts are facts. The best thing we can ever do in any situation is tell the truth…even when the truth is uncomfortable.

Could we all just take a deep breath and, for lack of a better phrase, calm the fuck down?


2 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Sex

  1. Good post Kerri! I went to Catholic school and to public school. I got all of my sex ed classes in Catholic school. This was back in the 60s and 70s. I am totally amazed that people get so up in arms about sex ed some 40 to 50 years after I had very explicit, at times, sexual education classes in high school.(The sex ed stuff in grade school wasn’t very explicit.)

    We were taught about birth control. That’s right in a Catholic school and the world did not come to an end. We were also taught that it was best to “save ourselves for marriage.” We were given necessary information on how to avoid compromising situations and how to avoid VD.(See I told you my classes were a long time ago. They weren’t called STDs back then.)

    My parents taught me about sex but a lot of kids parents did not teach them about sex. It turns out that some of my friends were able to keep from being taken advantage of because we did have sex ed.

    Sexual education is important. Not all parents know how to teach their children about sex and sexuality. Somebody needs to do teach the kids because the last thing we need is to have teenagers getting STDs and/or getting pregnant.

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