6 Things They Should Teach In Sex Ed — But Don't
Sex education isn't usually a high priority in most schools. Some barely teach it, and the ones that do often have to tiptoe around certain subjects to appease prudish parents who would prefer their children remain oblivious. A new book, Too Hot To Handle: A Global History Of Sex Education `by Jonathan Zimmerman reveals the historical struggle to teach sexual education in schools around the world and the accompanying opposition. A recent study found that less than 46 percent of males and 33 percent of females receive formal instruction on contraception methods before their first time having sex. This makes sense, since, according to Zimmerman, what kids do learn (at least in America) is "a smattering of information about their reproductive organs and a set of stern warnings about putting them to use."
So what would the ideal sex education class look like? It of course depends who you're talking to, but in my opinion, the most important things are those things that they're usually not teaching — the social and psychological sides to sex, the truth about STDs, and a full spectrum of LGBTQ issues. Granted, I'm not a licensed sexologist, but from my own experiences with life and sex in the decade since high school, these are six things I think they should definitely be teaching in high school sex ed.
1. What oxytocin is and how pop science misrepresents it
Oxytocin (also called the "love hormone") is one neurochemical released in your brain during sex, intimate physical contact, and a whole host of other activities. A lot of pop science articles suggest that oxytocin is what causes women to become more attached than men are to women after sex. If you look carefully into these claims, you'll find that the studies they cite are often promoted by conservative and/or religious organizations with very particular agendas, or are merely based on half-truths or dubious inferences. There is a lot more at work socially, psychologically, and physically when you have sex than just oxytocin, so girls shouldn't be taught that sex with some guy is going to make her fall in love while he remains cool and collected.
2. You can still get STDs while wearing a condom.
If kids learned that they could still get STD's even if they did practice safe sex, it might make them abstinent for life, so it kinda makes sense that sex positive sex ed wouldn't want to share the real truth about HPV or herpes. However, it's important to know that both of these viruses can be transmitted through skin to skin contact, even if there's a condom between you. The good news is that (at least for guys) there's this weird latex contraption for ultra safe coverage! Seriously though, all sex is like Russian roulette in a way, but that shouldn't keep you from engaging in it safely.
3. You can get pregnant during your period.
This is another bummer lesson that girls should learn. Even if you and your partner have been tested, you're still not home free during that time of the month. Depending on your individual cycle, you can still get pregnant during your period, particularly if you have irregular ovulation. So proceed with caution, kids.
4. Virginity is not defined by a hymen breaking.
Why is this still a thing? Penetrative sex with a human penis does not define a "deflowering" — which is also a horrible, sexist term. (What do you become after you lose your "flower" anyways — a dead husk of a plant or a pile of mulch?) Virginity is not defined by a flap of skin, it's individual from person to person, and losing it definitely does not require a penis.
5. Casual sex is for some people and not for others, regardless of gender.
Along with all the misinformation about oxytocin is this idea that casual sex is designed for men and disastrous for women. From my experience, many a dude's heart has been torn asunder from the slings and arrows of casual sex, too. As a recent NYU study suggested, casual sex affects each individual based on their own socialized views of casual sex — not on their gender.
6. Losing your virginity isn't necessarily a defining moment in your life.
Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn't. A lot of times it just happens, and that was that. Your first time defines you only if you want it to. Despite what most religions on earth will tell you, your virginity status does not make you better or worse than anybody else. And when it comes to women, losing your virginity does not make you a "slut" or less-worthy of respect.
7. Sex is supposed to be enjoyable.
I get the assumption that if you tell teens that sex is supposed to be an awesome party they'll somehow all have unplanned pregnancies or incurable STD's, but, there is still too much fear and danger piled onto discussions of human sexuality. Sex ed can still provide all the scientific facts about human reproduction and the possible social and psychological ramifications of sex with a positive spin on it all. Living in fear of sexual intimacy is about the worst thing you can teach someone. The jury is out on how the 21st century will fare in the sex ed department — I hope it's better than the last thousand years.