Feminism | Posted by Claudia A. on 06/8/2015

The Case For Comprehensive, Positive Sex Education

Sex ed.

Growing up, I was neither educated nor had positive conversations about sex. It was a taboo topic in my family. My mother especially refused to discuss it (even when I brought it up) and my father completely ignored the topic altogether. The closest we ever came to discussing it was when I would head out of the house with my boyfriend and my mom would remark: “Rebequita, no seas estupida” (Rebecca, don’t be stupid) or “Rebequita, no te dejes tocar” (Rebecca, don’t let yourself be touched). It was as if she expected me to somehow know everything about sex without ever talking about it.

My parents should have had this conversation with me, though, because my school wasn’t any better. My sex ed classes did not acknowledge that sex could be pleasurable and instead preached abstinence. Refrain from sex until you’re old enough to support yourself, they urged. They at least noted that if we were really intent on having sex, we had to use condoms but I remember them also sharing horrifying pictures of various sexually transmitted diseases.

I was in no rush to have sex after this education even though I had been in a long-term relationship throughout high school. I struggled to fully articulate why I didn’t want to have sex at the time but have since realized it was because I had no sexual agency. The silence surrounding the topic in my family, the fear my biology teacher instilled in me, and the pain my friends said they experienced when they had sex for the first time resulted in nothing but negative feelings about the topic.

It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college after taking a course entitled “Sex Education in the United States” that I finally felt like I had the agency to advocate for myself and my needs when it came to intimate relationships. I learned not only basic information but also about sex positivity — or the idea that sex can be a safe, pleasurable, and healthy thing, if you understand more about yourself and your partner. Sex positivity requires familiarity with your own body and learning what turns you and your partner on. Communication and consent are key in this process: You have to agree to engage in intimate acts to be able to fully enjoy them.

But why was I only able to gain this agency at an incredibly expensive liberal arts school in New England? Adolescents — especially those like me who grew up with conservative parents and in school systems with traditional sex ed programs — fail to learn that sex can be a positive experience. We need to move towards a society in which a comprehensive, sex-positive education is the norm.

Until then, though, there’s plenty of great information online that helps people understand everything from safe sex to healthy sexual relationships to masturbation—all the things I wanted to learn about but didn’t have in my life when I needed it. Websites like Scarleteen, Sex Etc., Planned Parenthood, and plenty of others helped me and can hopefully guide others to think about sex and healthy relationships in a new light.

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  • anonymous @ at 4:56 pm, June 9th, 2015

    I just want to say I find your blog amazing, i have only just discovered it and i am already in love with your posts.

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