I’m going to tell a bit about how I learned about sex, and why sex education is an important issue for me. My hope is that my story with help other girls who find themselves in the same situation that I was in.
Some of the details here I’m not exactly certain about and I will leave out any details that I deem too personal to share on the Internet. This is roughly chronological.
I don’t know if I ever asked the classic question that makes parents squirm: “Where do babies come from?” I don’t remember ever not knowing the answer to that one, but I remember one of my cousins telling me at one point. I don’t remember the context of the conversation.
In my middle school, my whole class got some basic information on the mechanics of sex and on anatomy. There was a sex education class offered, but I don’t know what information was given there since my parents didn’t sign the waver for me to go. To be honest, I don’t even know if I asked them to sign it. I wasn’t having sex, and I didn’t think I needed information on it.
In my teens, all of my information on STI’s and birth control came from Focus on the Family. I remember listening to one radio program where Dobson was interviewing a lady who had contracted HPV from premarital sex, and then later developed cervical cancer that made her sterile. I remember it as a very long, and very emotional program. It was the first time I’d ever heard of HPV. What I know now, and didn’t know then, is that most forms of HPV do not lead to cervical cancer, and that the cancer can be caught and treated early if the woman gets regular pap smears. Focus on the Family never mentioned anything about pap smears. That didn’t quite fit into their agenda of scaring unmarried women away from sex.
I also remember a joke about condoms on Focus on the Family programs. “What do you call a couple who uses condoms to prevent pregnancy? Parents!” Har har.
I was very fortunate to have a mother who knew about the need for a woman to have an annual exam, and who introduced me to a good gynaecologist. I have gone back to that same doctor roughly every year since. If she hadn’t told me, I would have had no idea about pap smears until many years later.
Speaking of Focus on the Family, I used to get their magazine for teen girls called Brio. I signed out a “True Love Waits” pledge and sent it in, and I got my parents to get me a ring to remind me of my chastity pledge. It was a joke, since I knew next to nothing about sex and what it meant to abstain.
I remember laying in bed one night and wondering what all the fuss about sex was. I just didn’t get it. I had no idea what a clitoris was, or an orgasm, until I read about them in a glossy woman’s magazine–it was either Cosmo or Redbook. Not the most ideal way for a girl to learn about sex, but it was what I had. Ah, now I understood why it felt good if I rubbed myself a couple inches forward of my vagina…that was a puzzle to me before.
With a single exception, I didn’t date until I was in my twenties. For one thing I kept to myself for the most part. I home-schooled during the years when kids usually start dating, and I lived a full half-hour away from any of my church friends. I was mainly afraid that I let myself be alone with a guy, he would pressure me to have sex. The thought of discussing sex/abstinence with anyone, much less a guy, scared me half to death. Besides I was too bashful when it came to asking anyone out, so I waited for someone to ask me.
By the time I started dating I was basically agnostic/atheist, and any religious ideas I had of “sex as sin” had lost their influence on me. I was ready to take control of my own life, and I rebelled against the guilt and fear that had always surrounded issues of sex. After I lost my virginity, I also realized what I’d been told by FotF literature about feeling guilty and used and worthless after losing your virginity was a bunch of bullshit. (Maybe they meant I should feel that way after losing my virginity?) Being a non-virgin is actually exactly like being a virgin, but with a bit more experience. I have also realized since that if I’d been offered real, good, accurate information about sexuality and relationships I would likely have remained abstinent LONGER, for rational reasons. Just knowing “sex causes pregnancy” does not give you the tools you need to navigate relationships not to mention your own hormones and emotions. I’m very thankful that the guys were apparently better educated then I was–they, at least, took the initiative in using condoms. I shutter to think what could have happened if they didn’t. I didn’t end up with an infection or an unwanted pregnancy, but I easily could have.
I have since sought out information on sexuality and birth control from Internet sites like Planned Parenthood, and by asking my gynaecologist.
Not giving kids, girls in particular, complete, accurate, and stigma-free information about sexuality does not mean they will not have sex and it can lead to terrible situations. This information should be required to be taught in the schools, because it may be too late before they get the information anywhere else. Just knowing that sex can lead to pregnancy or STI’s is not enough. Whether they decide to be abstinent until adulthood or marriage or not, they need to be fully informed on the physical, medical, relational, and emotional aspects of sexuality. It is, after all, an inseparable part of human life.