It has seemed to me that good high school sex education is damn near impossible to come by. I’ve talked before about the lack of solid curriculum presented in the US, but I wanted to see if it really was as bad as it appears to be. So, I rallied some great people together and had them spill the beans about the ways of their high school health classes. Unfortunately, I was entirely correct in thinking there’s gaps when it comes to educating on sex & sexuality.
I went out in search of experiences. I wanted to hear about the type of school that people went to, what kind of place is was located in, and what kind of education on sex they were given. I talked to a few people myself, and others submitted a summary to me of their experience. The results were honestly heartbreaking.
I knew that sex ed seemed to be bad all over. I still wanted to see, though, if there was any correlations between the area, the state, the community, etc. and the type of sex education. Unfortunately, it was proved that regardless of where you’re attending school, you better not count on getting a good sex education. I spoke to people who went to upper middle class high schools in suburban areas, and I spoke to people who went to more secular & diverse urban schools. They all responded with similar experiences of what they did and did not learn. There is just a complete lack of everything.
First, I spoke to a woman my age about her experience at a high school in the Hudson Valley of New York. We’ll call her Boop. Boop told me that her high school was incredibly diverse, and was of middle to low socioeconomic status. Boop went in to her sex ed class completely terrified and uneducated about the topics that might be discussed. She told me that she hadn’t been talked to about anything regarding sex before. The class left her completely in the dark. Boop and her class discussed anatomy, extremes of STDs, were shown a slide show of odd birth control methods, and topped it off with the grand condom on a banana. Boop and her classmates were never told about where they could get contraception, weren’t taught about menstruation, consent, the female orgasm, abortion or sexual orientation. Most importantly, Boop was never told that sex is a healthy thing that people their age will probably want to be doing. Boop told me that about 10% of her graduating class has children. She also told me that she continued to be virtually clueless about sex & sexuality until she got to college.
Next, I spoke to a woman just a year or two younger than Boop. We’ll call her Bleep. Bleep attended high school in Western Massachusetts, in an upper middle class community. Her sex education came out of one class in her Health course. The entire course was a semester long, but with all the other topics it had to cover, it of course just gave sex one day. Bleep told me that she learned a lot from the other units in her class, but it lacked in the most important one. When I spoke to Bleep, it seemed that they cover things similar to Boop’s class. A little but of contraception, a little bit of anatomy, call it a day. Bleep was most upset, though, about everything they didn’t cover. Bleep is gay, and at the time was kind of figuring herself out. In this sex ed class, Bleep felt lost, confused, and embarrassed because she wasn’t fitting the mold for who this information was directed at. She wouldn’t experience these things as others in the class would have, and with the curriculum only directed at cisgender heterosexuals, Bleep was left completely lost.
So here we have two women from completely different communities, both getting an extremely lack luster, painfully inadequate sex education. When I pull together the bits of information I got from a handful of other people, it’s all on the same blank page. There’s one day, one class, where bits & pieces of information are gathered up and awkwardly shared with you. One class. Depending on the school, this is mostly likely somewhere between 40-80 minutes. No matter how long, it’s no where near enough. If I have been able to write sex education articles every week for two years, one class is not enough. If you’re a straight, cisgender person who has maybe had some conversations here & there with your parents, then maybe this class would benefit you a bit. But that is just a small fraction of the people sitting in those classrooms. There’s people like Boop, who walked into her classroom without a clue, and left just as uneducated. There’s people like Bleep, who was practically ashamed to be in her class because the curriculum went right passed her needs. And that is just two examples of the people sitting in those classes. Everyone has their own experiences and perspectives, but I assure you that their needs are not being met with these curriculum.
I’m devastated by the results I got from this research, Fangirls. I knew it was bad, but I was a bit in denial. I didn’t want to believe that students are being denied of something so very, very important. We need passionate, informative, sex positive education to come in and save these students, because a serious lack of sexuality education does have consequences. There is so, so, so much work to be done here.
Thank you to Boop, Bleep, and all the others who shared their thoughts & experiences with me. I am forever appreciative for your time.
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