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If I asked you to think about your high school sex education class, what would you remember? Most people would probably remember how awkward it was, with lots of teenage girls giggling and blushing at the mention of a penis. The part that stood out for me was that my teacher was only speaking about straight sex. In fact, he did not once acknowledge that there was any other kind of sex.

At the age of 21, I have tried very hard to erase as much of my high school trauma as possible. Being openly queer at an all-girls school was mortifying and unfortunately, a lot of the trauma I experienced surrounding my sexuality stemmed from that Life Orientation classroom. High school sex education is extremely heteronormative, and the education system is either not acknowledging or doesn’t particularly care that this is extremely damaging for us later on in life. There are a couple of possible motives behind this non-inclusive syllabus: either they don’t want to promote students “becoming gay,” or they believe that an inclusive syllabus requires too much effort to cater to the “minority.” However, this is not at all true. So, regardless of what your almost-useless sex education classes taught you, everyone should know queer sex education. Here are four reasons why:


Experimenting is a thing

I could probably write a decent-sized list of my classmates who were straight that now identify as queer, and you know what? That is normal and perfectly okay! Whether you identify as heterosexual, lesbian, or pansexual, you should always be prepared if the situation ever presents itself. Think of it as a blanket “just in case you ever feel like trying this out,” and just because you identify as straight doesn’t mean you couldn’t benefit from more information about your own body. You can also identify as heterosexual and still be curious — having “queer thoughts” doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you, as our high school syllabi would’ve had us believe. 

Inclusive sex education also means an inclusive mindset

I sat in that sex education class wanting to cry my eyes out or jump out the classroom window. By excluding the possibility of queer sex or relationships and only focusing on heteronormative relations, they were basically teaching us that anything but heterosexual was not okay.

Society would definitely benefit from teenagers learning more inclusively earlier on in the classroom, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a change now, despite what you were taught as a teenager. If we all educate ourselves about queer sex and non-heteronormative relationships, we could lessen the alienation that queer people feel in everyday life. Normalizing queerness for ourselves means including more people in what is considered “normal society.” Doing our own research also lessens the burden on queer people to answer 50 million questions about gay sex. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to be curious — but please, keep in mind that they are people, not Google. Instead, GLSEN have some amazing guides and videos that cover a variety of topics.From pronoun guides to advice on how to support queer youth of color, they’re a great resource to check out. 

Lack of information leaves us vulnerable

Since “real sex” only happens between a man and a woman according to most sex-ed curricula, and only a man can get a woman pregnant, then surely only a man can give a woman an STI… right? You may think this is absurd, but those who are either too ashamed to ask questions or have straight up been misinformed would not know any better. Not teaching these details about sex in high school and creating this taboo around queer relations leaves teenagers at a disadvantage going into adult life. Many young adults assume that everything they would’ve needed to know about sex was taught to them during high school. This is why it is our responsibility to make sure everyone is informed and informed correctly. The Triangle Project has a variety of resources on safe queer sex, that include debunking some common misconceptions about queer sex and STIs. 

Sex is not just about babies!

The only lesson that was really drilled into my head during those sex education classes was how to avoid being a real-life Teen Mom. This narrative about sex is way off. As teenagers, we are implicitly taught that women get nothing out of sex other than having a baby nine months later. You know that men will get pleasure out of it, but do any of us learn how to experience pleasure during sex? Usually not; that is too taboo to be discussed in public. 

Regardless of your sexual orientation, queer sex education is usually more beneficial for women, period. What heteronormative sex education lacks is the in-depth information about the female anatomy, that queer sex education has. Don’t worry, you don’t have to resort to looking up how to have a better orgasm in Cosmopolitan. YouTuber Stevie has some amazing videos on lesbian sex, which can also serve as anatomy lessons for those of you who want to understand your bodies better.

No matter what, it is important that you keep yourself and those around you safe and you can do that by making sure you are prepared and aware. It doesn’t matter what your relationship to queerness is, just be safe and responsible.

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Dakota Steyn completed her undergraduate BSocSci studies at the University of Cape Town, triple majoring in English Literature, Media and Writing, and Gender Studies. In 2020, she became the first South African featured writer for the online youth culture magazine, Thought Catalog. As of 2021, she is the first South African contributing writer for The Just Girl Project and is currently a contributing writer for the non-profit organization TWLOHA. She is currently pursuing her postgraduate studies in Literary Studies and is an intern for PEN South Africa.