Two weeks ago I wrote a post about my sexual education, my subsequent sexual harassment, abuse and constant justification, my pursuit of knowledge through college courses and therapy, and eventual journey into sexual healing and pleasure (still a major work in progress).
I wrote in detail about what I did, and did NOT learn in my sex ed classes in elementary, middle and high school, and I made a lofty request to you my sweet readers. I asked you to be vulnerable, to share, to join the conversation! And boy, did you!
The voices that rang out in response to More Orgasms and More Education — How Sex Ed Informs Our Relationships With Our Bodies and Pleasure were astounding! And I feel massively grateful for all the stories you shared.
Many of the responses I received mirrored my own experience.
In fact, quite a few of my responders actually grew up in the same school system as me.
As I posted my original piece, A small part of me wondered: “Am I being overly critical, am I getting it wrong?” Hoping that maybe, just maybe, sex ed wasn’t as lacking as I remembered. Praying, that other women were taught to say no, and spoke up loudly when they were called a tease for getting naked but not being ready to have sex, rather than laying down with fear in their heart and blood rushing to their head, deciding they better just do it, because they’d already come this far and it wouldn’t be fair to back out. Thinking, perhaps the lessons about consent were taught on the days I was absent. But, that was not the case.
I spoke with my childhood best friend who reminded me about “PAB” otherwise lovingly known as: Pregnant AIDS Baby, a figment of my imagination that became a joke to calm my worries, but in all reality was a constant fear for me. And in many ways this fear was shared by my best friend as well.
I listened as a man I went to high school with stated, “all the lessons were missing.” I nodded my head as I read his words, and then he caught me by surprise as he claimed responsibility for the way he had pressured me for pictures of my body, and apologized without request.
I read messages about consent and alcohol. About regret, and not learning about the connection between the two until AA.
I received messages from men who don’t participate in sex, other than masturbation, because they still don’t fully trust themselves to understand consent.
I posted polls and was astounded to see how many people did not receive any sexual education at all.
I was not so shocked to read that many others received sexual education preaching the abstinence only method.
I was even less shocked as people wrote about their seemingly comprehensive sexual education classes, undermined by fear, by pictures of herpes, by reminders that sex was bad, and our bodies weren’t worth listening or connecting to.
I had comments pop up that transported me back to my own sex ed class; like the analogy of licking the same Oreo someone else had already licked — as if once we had sex we were dirty, an object covered with germs.
I felt my heart drop to my stomach as a I read a woman’s story about her mandatory 7th grade assembly. About a guest speaker who equated losing your virginity (a phrase that is all sorts of problematic in itself) to becoming and old dirty shoe, impure, and useless.
This speaker blamed girls for the way boys acted (which sounded all too familiar, don’t you remember, girls couldn’t have their bra straps showing, because the boys would be distracted from their studies). The speaker reminded the girls that if they didn’t “give it up so easily” they would have healthy relationships. And that was their sex talk.
So, when this same woman was sexually assaulted, when she was groped and touched and her shouts were not heard, her no was not respected, she believed it was her fault. That she “gave it up too easily.” And when it happened again, she proceeded in silence, knowing that she could not possibly be wanted if she were to speak out, for she was just like a dirty pair of shoes. Her sexual education taught her that her assault was her responsibility to stop, her fault, her loss of value.
But what if, what if our collective sexual educations had taught different messages?
What if the man who apologized to me, had instead been taught how to treat me with respect in the first place?
What if we were taught that consent is not possible when alcohol is involved in spheres other than AA, before guilt and shame and regret for actions preformed?
What if that strong, courageous and beautiful woman was taught that she was valuable, and no one could take her value away from her, that her voice was worth hearing, her story mattered and that she would be loved no matter what?
What if? It’s the question they always tell us not to ask. It complicates things. It attempts to change the past. But I say fuck it. I get that we can’t change the past, but the question begs us to change the damn future.
Let’s ask “what if?” What if sexual education focused more on consent. What if sex ed discussed queer relationships and sex? What if sex ed de-stigmatized mental illness?
Because, the more we ask “what if”, the more we see that a different outcome is possible. The more we realize education encompassing more than fear, condoms and hotlines is essential, and maybe just maybe right around the corner.
And I say this, because believe it or not, we are getting better. I got some pretty incredible positive feedback as well.
My middle school health teacher reached out about a training she had just completed all about consent!
A gal I went to college with spoke about how teaching health education to the kids in her PE class was her favorite part of the curriculum.
Another person from my college dorm spoke about a summer camp they went to for queer kids, and kids with queer parents and the comprehensive sex ed provided at this camp, chalk full of discussion about consent, pleasure and healthy relationships.
So, ya’ll it is possible. It might even be happening. And we have an incredible force within us, that can propel that change. Our voices!
We are powerful, we deserve to be heard. Our no’s and our yes’s. And I say fuck yes, to more sexual education, to better sexual education, to sexual education that dives into all the things we are afraid to say, rather than all the things that evoke fear when our teachers say them!
I can’t say thank you enough for all the people who made their voices heard! I love each and every one of you!
Once again, here to: more orgasms, more education, and more voices being heard!