Can you remember what your sex education was like?
I remember mine. The boys were sent into one classroom, and girls into another.
There was very little ‘education’ and we watched a movie about how erections worked and how babies were created.
No joke, I think the teachers were just as uncomfortable about being in the room with us as we were with them. In some fairness, I attended a private catholic school. Need I say more?
At the end of the lesson, we were offered time for questions, but not one person put up their hand. I certainly had a million questions but I was way too embarrassed, awkward and horrified to ask anything. I would plan to ask my cool older siblings at a later day, but even that was terrifying to me. I could only imagine what it would have been like for the kids who didn’t have older siblings/cousins/friends and had to talk to their parents. Groan!
When you are in year 7; your hormones are kicking in while life long crushes develop (this may have started well before year 7, lets be honest- didn’t we all have a future husband planned out in year 2?) This would have been a great time to introduce the idea that not only are our bodies individual and different, but that they should be respected and also enjoyed and celebrated. Now please don’t get me wrong. I am in no way encouraging young girls or boys to go off into the bushes and get it on, but it just seems to me that it would have been helpful to understand how it all works, being encouraged to love my body rather than being ashamed or scared of it (don’t even get me started on when they made us do public BMI
shaming testing in year 10 and I was deemed ‘overweight’- I was a size 8-10 and weighed like 55kg, c’mon people).
Still to this day, I’m learning things about men, women and our bodies, and I am totally fascinated by it all. I am 28 for goodness sake, and these ‘new’ things I am learning should have been taught when I was supposed to be learning about the birds and the bees. Periods should have been discussed (maybe not in the very first sex ed class, but later on in upper year levels) with boys and girls together. Boners and wet dreams should be discussed with girls and boys together. I sense people right now are like, oh man, she’s going on a tangent but hang in with me here. This also stems to the discussion with our parents or guardians. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your kids about sex and your body/their body, how are they going to be comfortable about hearing it and talking about it? That goes for pubic hair, wobbly bits, periods, bacne, BO, boobs growing and balls dropping.
These completely natural, healthy bodily functions are something that teenagers often grow up ashamed of or only able to discuss in a joking manner. Dr Martha Tara Lee advises: “Children should not become ashamed of their body. If there is confusion, this can present later in life as body image issues or shame surrounding their sexuality.” You can read more about that here.
Now, I can’t exactly talk about a male perspective, but when girls/young women/women are ashamed of their bodies we do silly things like:
- not wear dresses/shorts/singlets/jeans/anything that potentially shows a part of our body we do not like (which leads to many days/nights of being uncomfortable/hot/cold/sweating all because we might be worried that the boy we like might see the one missed leg hair that wasn’t removed during the meticulous shaving earlier that day)
- not wear bathers in front of people let alone bikinis. (Heaven forbid someone see anything less than a six pack or a Kim K booty!)
- not go to the beach (see above)
- not swim if they have a period (it took me years to figure out that tampons were the solution here- why did nobody tell me????)
- hide natural features under layers of makeup
- agonize over that 50grams we put on in the day (and not even stop to consider that the 50grams might be from nutritious, fueling food or water)
- never leave the house in tracksuits (this I never understood, aren’t trackies meant to be worn for comfort? How are they different to active wear?)
- skip getting a pap smear because we are terrified of someone being that up close and personal (as a woman who has had more pap smears than all of my family and friends combined, I can tell you- seen one, seen them all. Doctors do not care what you look like. They are too busy making sure you are healthy to notice that stray pube or extra skin)
- only have sexy times with the lights off, or in bed under a blanket (Live a little. You’ve gone so far as to be at a point where someone is enjoying having some lovin’ time with you, they are obviously attracted to you!)
- never, ever, tell anyone you have your period unless you are absolutely desperate and need to borrow an emergency tampon or pad, and even then: you whisper it in secret and without looking your friend in the eye because you’re absolutely mortified and so ashamed and cant possibly imagine what they will think of you whilst forgetting that you are asking a fellow female, who has tampons and who obviously has this happen to her as well,
but forget thatand maintain that you are soooooo embarrassed.
I could go on and on about body shame but that’s for another post I think. I risk going down the rabbit hole too far if I don’t stop now!
If we want our friends, daughters, sons, nieces, nephews, cousins or even next door neighbours to grow into healthy, mature adults who can hold a serious conversations with their closest people (let alone a doctor!), about that weird itch on their areola or the odd thing that’s happening in their armpit without cracking a giggle or going beet red, we need to start talking about the hard stuff from an earlier age. (No pun intended, but boy it would have been a good one.)
Why is it so hard to have these conversations? I have this dream, where one day, I get to go to a school and talk to a year level (lets say year 11’s and 12’s for example) about periods and Endometriosis. Or perhaps make the awkward sexEd talk not so awkward in general. I long to educate. Hence why I am studying Education I suspect.
For me right now, my main point of focus is the topic of Endo, and the stigma around periods. It has to end if we are ever going to get anywhere. Girls should know about what signs they can look out for, or be encouraged to talk to a parent/mentor if they have questions. I don’t want to see another generation of women spend a decade of their lives waiting to get that pain checked out, out of fear or shame. I don’t want another generation of young men acting repulsed at the mere thought of periods. It just breeds confusion, misconceptions and worse off, makes the young girls around them feel like they are disgusting.
Enough of teachers and parents feeling icky talking about this stuff! If it weren’t for periods, erections, ovulation, women’s bodies and men’s bodies, none of us would be here.
If you had a brilliant sex-ed class, or have a birds and bees story that was memorable, that you want to celebrate or whinge about, I’d love to hear about it!
Follow me on instagram @gene_ie_e or leave a comment below.
Stay strong my young guns, if you think puberty is confronting, wait until you have to start paying taxes!