Hold onto your pearls, pearl-clutchers. Oklahoma’s Tulsa School District has just announced plans to implement an unprecedented sex education policy. Cities like Boston, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles are already teaching comprehensive, medically accurate, LGBTQ inclusive sex education to public school students. One by one, American cities are announcing a move away from abstinence-only curriculum or worse, nothing at all.
Sex education across the world varies so widely that chances are, you’re having sex with someone who received different sex education from you. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all enter (…heh) sexual and romantic relationships confident in each other’s baseline knowledge? In an ideal world, this is what we’d all learn before we go forth and spread our love. Or seed. Or legs (I’M SORRY).
1. Safe sex vs Unsafe Sex is a false dichotomy.
Look, if you decide to go rollerblading, you could do it in a lot of ways. These range from riding downhill naked with no breaks in the middle of the street to going really slowly on grass in a full body pad. Whatever you choose, you’re rollerblading, which is less safe than like, lying down. Some sex is safer than other sex. Do whatever you can to keep yourself reasonably safe and happy, but know that no sex with another person is 100% “safe.”
For example, the pull out method is unreliable, but better than nothing at all to reduce the risk of getting pregnant. People, including teenagers, will continue to have risky unprotected sex, ESPECIALLY if we teach them that the second they aren’t using a combination of condoms and oral contraception and spermicidal lubricant ($$$$) they have failed at being safe. Give it to us straight, teach.
2. You can say no to anything you want.
If there’s anything you don’t want to do, you don’t have to do it. If someone tells you they don’t want to do what you’re proposing, stop doing it. Sometimes, because of power dynamics or social pressures, this will be really really hard. One thing that gets complicated is when you actually really want to do ___ with someone, but not ___. If someone is doing a weird, complicated maneuver that is just making you giggle, how do you say “no thanks” without shutting the whole thing down? I’m picturing scripts and consent role-play. I’m picturing illustrated brainstorming workbooks with speech bubbles.
3. You can say yes to anything you want.
It’s okay to like sex, that’s why people are doing it all the time. Your sex life is your oyster babe, so go shuck it. Talk about what you like and say an enthusiastic yes to whatever you want. Note: Boys, this doesn’t make you a demi-god, this just makes you someone who has good sex. Likewise teen girls, this doesn’t make you a slut! And for the love of everything wonderful…. LGBTQ kids, good sex ed will explicitly validate your desires.
4. Anatomy and Reproduction 101
“Can’t a girl just do that thing in a book where she adds up the days of her…what do you call it…mentalstration?” – Grease 2
No matter what plumbing you have, responsible post-pubescent people need to understand how our bodies work, and how each other’s bodies work. For anyone who’s ever had to say “nope…not there,” you know what I’m talking about.
Also?! Everyone needs to learn about periods. What the hell message does it send to ten year olds when girls have to sit inside a classroom learning about menstruation while boys get to play basketball outside after talking about deodorant for ten minutes? Uh NO. And what about kids who are struggling with their gender identity? Splitting people up like that is weird and confusing. Everyone should have the honor and privilege of hearing their teacher awkwardly answer questions pertaining to how you can still pee with a tampon in, or whatever.
5. Most sex and sex acts are not for baby-making.
IN FACT– lots of people are doing really great sex stuff that biologically could not result in a pregnancy, and that’s cool! Let’s talk about all of the sex acts that DON’T lead to pregnancy and why those are so fun and important. Sure, heterosexual penetrative sex is the main avenue for making tiny humans, and students should know the basic process that leads to that in order to both do it someday AND avoid it. However, focusing exclusively on sex for reproduction doesn’t do anyone any favors.
6. Making it good may take some work.
Unlike in porn, real sex doesn’t always just…work. Sex education should teach that in order to enjoy sex, you may have to get creative. It’s not just going to slip right in every time, chaps. A nine-inch height difference makes some positions complicated. If it’s not working for you, it’s your godforsaken right do what you need to do to make it awesome. This may require some conversations about potentially uncomfortable topics including, but by no means limited to foreskin, lubrication, dildos and the concept of a marathon vs. a sprint.
7. Virginity: not just about penis and vagina sex.
Virginity is a social construct, yo. If you are a boy and you only ever have sex with boys, are you a virgin for life? Of course not! You can define your virginity however you want. If you want to “save yourself” for marriage but (safely) give lots of blowjobs in the meantime, that’s your prerogative. Just remember that sex looks like a lot of different things, and the effects of it on your life don’t just come with whatever you define as a homebase.
Speaking of which…
8. The “base” system is bullshit.
You don’t have to do 2 before you do 3. You don’t have to do B just because you’ve been doing A for three months already.
9. Laws pertaining to abortion and contraception, and how use and access them.
Laws vary widely, and #realtalk: it’s the responsibility of educators to tell pupils how to legally take care of their sexual and reproductive health needs. This doesn’t have to be a political or moral issue; it’s simply providing accurate information. How to use condoms, what safer-sex options are for all of the sex acts and what to do to prevent pregnancy. And if pregnancy happens? Details on the options, please. Also, talking about how it’s everyone’s responsibility to obtain and fund contraception wouldn’t go amiss.
10. Orgasms are a thing.
This is a vital, exciting topic that some sex ed completely glosses over, much to the chagrin of basically everyone. Orgasms are the bread and butter of for-pleasure sex, but so many adults and teens don’t know how to have one or even what they are. If you’ve received sex ed, you should walk away with this knowledge:
• They’re not just for the ejaculators of the world (and don’t always involve ejaculation).
• Not every sexual activity will result in one, and that’s fine.
• Sometimes you’ll be surprised by the sexual activities that result in one.
• A lot of things in your life (ie stress, sleepiness, smoking) will affect your ability to have one.
• It’s okay if you only have them by yourself, as often as you want.
• It’s okay if you don’t have one at the same time as the person you’re having sex with.
• Sometimes they take a long time to happen.
• Sometimes they take very little time to happen.
• You’ll know if you’ve had one.
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