Girl And Boy Chillin

Let's talk about sex ed

The way we talk about sex and sex parts just sucks.

My freshman year of college, I worked on a team where we built a cervix dilation model. It was designed to help nursing students learn to palpate a dilated cervix while they helped a woman through labor.

Whenever we presented to the class, of course there were snickers. At the time, I expected nothing less. A group of 18-year-olds––predominantly men––laughing at the word “vagina” isn’t really breaking news.

What really made me irrationally angry was that half of these men were, and are, probably sexually active. Chad from Pikapp should definitely not be having sex if he can’t say names of private parts without losing it.

Also featured in that class were the pre-med kids who were “passionate about the human body” and just found it oh-so-interesting. I guess your OB-GYN rotations are going to be a little awkward if you can’t even hear the word “labia” without letting out a giggle. 

My own friends weren’t too innocent either. “How’s your sex toy coming along?” It got me an A. So pretty well, thanks for asking.

We learn this kind of behavior––this repulsion to the intimate body––at a young age. 

In lower school, they showed us funny cartoon videos about our “changing bodies” with catchy songs and happy schoolchildren. The teachers patted themselves on the back, proud that they had initiated our studies in sex ed. I still cried when I got my first period and thought I was dying because I had a “bad tummy ache” for a few days. So while, yes, present children information in a way suitable to their attention spans, please include actual information.

In middle school sex ed, I was told to not ever look at a penis. “It’s disgusting.” I was told to not ever have sex. Stop teaching young women that sex is a crime. You’re confusing impressionable children and putting them at risk.

In eighth grade, we were preparing for a week-long trip to the Everglades. The boys and girls were split up. The girls were told to “not make a big deal” if we got our periods and that we couldn’t let the boys see because it’d be embarrassing. Something tells me the boys were having a very different conversation.

In freshman year health, I was told that we wouldn’t be discussing the menstrual cycle because “it’d make the boys uncomfortable.” Now I know why boys are so comfortable asking me if it’s “leak week” whenever I’m in a bad mood. Or why I was once asked “does this mean you’re going to yell at me for the next few days?” when I told my ex-boyfriend I was on my period. (The irony: you can’t yell back at them or you’re just “proving their point.”)

We were talking about vaginas in junior year sex ed, and the girl next to me started laughing and saying it was disgusting. (Note: it lasted for about five minutes, and then we talked about the male body for about half an hour.) I didn’t know what to make of her laughter: whether it was internalized misogyny, perhaps immaturity, or maybe just a lack of education. I certainly hope that wasn’t the first time she’s been taught about her body.

We’re also taught things that are simply false. You are not guaranteed to bleed after losing your virginity. Sex is not supposed to hurt. You can contract an STI even with a condom. STIs are not shameful. Birth control is not 100% effective. Although it’s rare, you can get pregnant on your period. Please stop scaring off people from having sex. And if you’re going to talk about safe sex, talk about it correctly.

My friend asked me if a UTI was a kind of STD. You’re kidding me at this point. 

Now, I expect more. I should have been horrified when the class snickered at our project, not complacent. I should stop rolling my eyes at the shark attack jokes and unapologetically be a person with feelings. I promise to fully judge you if you laugh at the word “vagina” or tell me that the only safe sex is no sex.

Yeah, maybe at one point I fell into the trap of internal misogyny and made “leak week” jokes and thought jokes about my sexual health were funny. I’m proud of myself for escaping that environment.

And if you haven’t heard it today: sex is not a crime and your period is not weird. Your uterus is freaking rebuilding itself while Chad from Pikapp is drinking his third Yuengling on a Tuesday. Who’s cooler?