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This episode about what isn't sex education is sponosred by BetterHelp.com. If you've been harmed by a lack of sex education or misinformation please go to http://betterhelp.com/sexplanations to get the support and guidance to unpack trauma and access solutions for a happier sexuality. If you're not satisfied with your counselor you can switch easily (SUPER easily) to a new counselor or therapist, and if you're still not into the experience as a whole, BetterHelp can refund the cost.
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This episode of Sexplanations is sponsored by betterhelp.com, a really convenient and accessible way to get mental health counseling anywhere in the world.

(Sexplanations)

What isn't sex education?  I've been meeting people all across the United States and hearing how they weren't taught anything about sexuality in school or at home or that they were simply told "don't do it".  What is it?  Oh, we can't talk about that.  Yet 100% of us will be affected by sex, menstruation, excitation, masturbation, identity formation, orientation, and negotiation.  Normal, natural human experiences, yet most of the people I've talked to haven't been taught any of it.  What's going on and how to care for themselves.  Instead, they're told by their families that their school will cover it, and they're told at school by their teachers, your family will explain.  That's not sex education!

Recently in North Carolina, a man told me he's still learning about sexuality from trial and error because no one taught him anything.  Can you imagine the error that's possible in sexual scenarios?  Some of it's traumatic!  That's not sex education.

Another person shared how no one around her talked about genitals, so she didn't have the language when she got into a relationship to communicate about her body and her partners and what will feel good.  The way I relate to this is like going swimming and only having the word 'face' for all of this, because 'nose' and 'mouth' and 'lips' and 'eyes' and 'cheeks' are too shameful to say.  I'm told close my eyes underwater and breathe out my nostrils, but I don' know what this means!  I could drown!

Abstinence only in this analogy is telling people to stay out of the pool and calling it a swimming lesson.  That's not a swimming lesson.  Abstinence isn't sex education.  It's programming.  It's not sex education to say 'don't do it', it's not sex education to say that abstaining from sex is the only option, or even the best option.  

Sex has hundreds of benefits which could make sex the best option for someone.  I learned in Alabama students are given a list of consequences from having sex, matched to the numbers on two dice.  If they roll a 2, nothing happens, but all other outcomes, 3-12, are negative.  Chlaymydia, unplanned pregnancy, etc.  Statistically, this version at least isn't accurate.  2 is less probable than other number combinations and for that matter, not all sex is reproductive.  Plus, if 3-12 are considered unfortunate, what about the positive sexual outcomes like relief, pleasure, orgasm, sense of connection, strengthening a relationship?  You're gonna need way bigger dice.

I don't get it.  Sex is something that most abstinence only advocates have.  Do they think that it's all gloom or that is, until marriage and then somehow matrimony eliminates all negative outcomes?  Relationships don't protect and prevent against negative outcomes.  Education does, and it isn't sex education to say that one kind of relationship status is some sort of safety mechanism or that premarital, homosexual, bi- or pan- relationships are inferior or intrinsically wrong.

Have you heard of no promo home?  There are laws in seven states that prohibit teachers from discussing LGBT people or topics in a positive way or at all.  In South Carolina, "You may not include a discussion of alternate sexual lifestyles from heterosexual relationships including, but not limited to, homosexual relationships except in the context of instruction concerning sexually transmitted diseases."  That's not sex education.

In Louisiana, I was talking to someone who didn't that hymens had different shapes or that you could see them.  She thought, because no one had taught her otherwise, that the hymen evaporated on impact.  It popped!  Ooh, that's not a result of sex education.  That's a lack of sex education.

I relayed this story to someone else in Georgia to illustrate the value of actually teaching people about sexuality and how messages like the hymen has to be popped, broken, or torn to have sex are incomplete and flawed.  She replied, I actually thought the same things about hymens evaporating.  No one educated her otherwise!  If they had tried, it was probably segregated, boys in one room, girls in another, this weird practice that suggests that other peoples' experiences aren't important to understand and/or that they're shameful.  

You shouldn't be embarrassed by your boners, but we're gonna put some of your classmates in a different room so that you're not embarrassed.  All of this limits the sex education that everyone should have access to and separating the class perpetuates the myth that sex and gender are binary, that your body should look like a hot dog or a taco, even though bodies are diverse and on a spectrum between hot dogs and tacos, and not all tacos are girls and not all hot dogs are beef.  Using food instead of anatomical vocabulary is also not great sex education.

I think it was in Utah or Arizona that I learned about a couple who experienced really painful intercourse for a year before realizing that the anus is not the vagina.  Come on, world!  Is it too much to ask of sex education that we know the difference between an anus and a vagina?  How to care for them and that preparing one for sex is different than preparing the other?

In Mississippi, someone told me that his dad said, "Girls and women don't want or enjoy sexual pleasure, only the guys care about sex and you'll know what to do."  That isn't sex education!  Some girls and women don't want or enjoy sex, sure.  That's the same for all genders, but to say that there aren't any girls or women who want and enjoy sex?  I'm a woman.  I was a girl.  I absolutely enjoy sexual pleasure.  Also, this idea that we come out of the womb knowing how to be sexual, to flirt, respect boundaries, coordinate bodies, etc, is unrealistic and dangerous.  Not sex education.

In Texas, I'm told this is how it goes.  New toothbrush.  Okay, kids, brush your teeth.  Pass it on to someone.  Pass it on again and again, like each person has used this toothbrush.  Now do you want to brush your teeth with that toothbrush?  Are you kidding me?  Human beings aren't inanimate objects used by others and human beings can use protection, get tested, and clean themselves if they're taught how.  Try sharing that with your students instead of the patronizing toothbrush exercise.

What makes this mess of not actually sex educating even more twisted?  That people who preach abstinence only programming or say nothing at all know it doesn't work.  They see people around them suffering with the highest sexually transmitted infection rates in the country, kids having kids, relationship abuse, and suicide, and at least some of them have to know from their own experiences how difficult sexuality is to navigate, to share and understand, how helpful it would be to have sex education.  If they don't, the American Medical Association, Society for Adolescent Medicine, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Public Health Association, and American Sexual Health Association can speak to a plethora of research, including that sexuality is challenging and we're better off when we receive sex education.

Sex education is teaching people what sex is, how to decide when and if they're ready to have it, how to negotiate whatever that decision is with partners, how to navigate the laws, and how to take care of themselves.  It celebrates our diversity, it honors abstinence but doesn't mandate it by relationship status.  It uses sex vocabulary, it explains consequences (?~6:34) in all forms, and it informs people where to go for a lifetime of questions.

If you're not receiving this, it probably isn't sex education.  Stay curious.

A big thank you to BetterHelp for sponsoring this episode of Sexplanations.  Not receiving sex education or getting this information, shame, and silence can have a detrimental impact.  I know from talking with people across the country who've struggled a lot to be comfortable naked, let their partners touch them, or express what they might like sexually.  Many of them have had to do the hard work of unpacking their identities, values, and beliefs to have better sex lives.

This is something BetterHelp is great for.  They have a user friendly site that asks you some thoughtful questions to match you with a professional, and you can call, write, text, online video, with that person, everything that frustrates you and solutions to heal.  Whenever.  Middle of the night, while you're going to the bathroom, traveling, as long as you're not driving.  They're affordable, awesome to work with, simple to quit if you're not feeling it or want to try someone new.  There are licensed professional counselors and therapists available when you're ready to get the care you deserve.

(Endscreen)

Whee!