Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sex Ed: More Important Than Algebra!

First and foremost, I'd like to make something clear. I love my parents. I love them to death. I really do. I am extremely grateful for all they've done for me and I'm grateful for (and extremely surprised at) the fact that they've been able to put up with me for as long as they have.

However, they're no where near perfect. No one is, of course, but there has always been something lacking in my relationship with my parents: communication and education. Whenever I speak to my parents about any difficult subject, whether that subject is human rights, abortion, TBLG rights, and in particular, my own body, there is always a lot of awkwardness throughout the whole conversation, and my parents are always quick to change the subject. This made some aspects of my life very difficult.

I started my period somewhere in between the ages of 8-10. I should have known what was going on with my body. I shouldn't have been reduced to tears, thinking that I was bleeding to death. I shouldn't have been terrified to go to my parents for help. I shouldn't have had to figure out what was going on on my own. But that was not the case, I did have to find out on my own, and I was terrified. Now, I understand that I got my period at a young age and that I got it before most people probably get their periods, but why shouldn't an 8 year old know about her period? Why should she have to find out the hard way?

This lack of education never stopped. Again, I love my mom and dad to death, but I just can not understand why they would choose to let me "learn" about my body all by myself, with only the internet to turn to. With the internet, I "learned" a lot about sex. I learned that you can get pregnant if you swallow sperm. I learned that all men have penises and all women have vaginas (genital essentialism). I learned that, for a penis to be acceptable, it has to be very large. I also learned that enjoyable sex is impossible if the penis (assuming a penis is involved) is not very large. I learned that, if my partner masturbates, I don't really need to use protection because I can't get pregnant. I learned that if you jump up and down after having unprotected sex you greatly reduce your chances of becoming pregnant. I learned that sex is an obsession for men and a chore for women, and that if I have sex and am not enjoying it then that's okay and normal because women aren't supposed to enjoy sex anyway. I learned that "vagina" and "penis" are dirty words. I learned that diseases "leak through" condoms so you might as well have unprotected sex anyway. I could go on, but I think you get the point. I learned a lot of scary crap, and a lot of it was reinforced by abstinence only "education". If I had never come across reliable pro-choice, pro-reproductive freedom websites, I would probably still believe all of this.

The scariest part about all of this is the fact that I know that what I went through is not rare at all. I've met so many other people, young people and adults alike, who have come to me with questions, and I am absolutely appalled by some of the misconceptions that these people have. I've heard other people speaking to each other about sex and the misconceptions that they have are not at all unlike the misconceptions that I had before finding proper sources to learn from. It's not their fault, though. They have been failed by other people and by the government, they're just using the only resources that they have to learn.

A common misconception about sex education is that, if you don't teach a child about their bodies, then no one will. WRONG. Children and teenagers are not only very curious, they also have a lot of influence about sex from other sources, sources that you likely don't want children to learn from. When you choose not to teach a child about hir* own body, you are not choosing to protect hir "innocence", you're choosing to let hir learn from gossip, myths, magazines, and porn. Mom and dad, is that how you wanted me to learn? Really?

I will never understand why sex education is not considered acceptable in our society. What do you think is more relevant to a person's life: sex, relationships, the body and how it works, gender identity, rape prevention (and I mean real rape prevention, not "ladies, always walk with a buddy!" type of "prevention"), or algebra? Honestly. Algebra is important, sure, but how often do we do it outside of anything school/college related? We all live with and use our bodies every single second of every single day of our lives. Despite this fact, our society values math education more than sex education. Why?

*gender neutral pronoun