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English 212
2002 Second Paper
On Serendip

What the Sexual Subgroup 'Maggie' Wishes She Had Been Taught about Sex

by Anonymous

My experiences with sex education seem to be fairly typical. I had a basic health class in middle school and a more in-depth one in high school. Both of these classes had sex ed units that didn't teach us as many things as they did teach us. I was homeschooled in elementary school, and while my parents are both open and easy to talk to, I do not remember having a sex talk with either one of them until it came time for them to worry that I might be having sex. An effective sexuality education class should teach many issues. The following paper is a discussion of a few of the specific topics that I was not exposed to about sex and that I think are an important part of any sexually healthy person's knowledge.

The word 'masturbation' was never mentioned at any point in my formal high school education or my informal education with my parents. The most educational conversation I had about masturbating was in French class when my classmates consisted of guys who joked about it because they were embarrassed and girls who would have rather quit the cheerleading squad than admit they masturbated. I grew up surrounded by the opinion that guys who were going through puberty were the only people who masturbated, and it was certainly not something that people should talk about. It is very important for all adolescents to be exposed to the idea of masturbation as more than something that should produce guilty feelings. Students, either in sex(uality) ed class or from their parents should be taught that masturbation could help them learn more about their bodies and sexual responses. People who are just becoming sexually interested or active may find masturbation to be a safe way to do this without worrying about pregnancy, pleasing a partner, or diseases. Masturbation can be done for pure pleasure, exploration, relaxation, to aid sleep, to enhance sex activities with a partner, or many other reasons. Sex ed should include many of these reasons and stress to the students that they are all healthy and not shameful.

Masturbation can cause some health problems, only if it is done unsafely (such as autoerotic asphyxia, which involves masturbating with something tied around the neck) or too frequently. These problems should be pointed out and discussed, but not stressed so much as to reinforce the message that masturbation is bad. I do not necessarily think that masturbation should be encouraged, anymore than I think any type of sexual behavior should be promoted over another. A poll from the week of January 11, 2001 from shows that over 96% of teenage males who answered the poll masturbate, and about 84% of teenage females who answered the poll masturbate. Another poll from this site, taken the week of September 7, 2000, shows that over 50% of teenagers have either been told that masturbation is bad or have always gotten that impression. Granted, these are not scientifically conducted studies, but with numbers like that it is time to get rid of the sense of guilt that surrounds masturbation.

Menstruation is generally talked about and taught as if it is a dirty, disgusting and secretive thing. Girls are embarrassed when they start their periods, and boys tease us about it for our entire lives. There are hundreds of code names for when we have our periods, and most teenage girls would be mortified to carry a tampon out in the open on their way to the bathroom. This aura of shame and secrecy about our periods should be replaced with a sense of power and strength. No one ever told me that my bleeding was in rhythm with the lunar cycles. No one every taught me about the hundreds of fertility and moon goddesses that represented power in the ability to have children. No one ever explained that all women throughout history have also bled in time with the moon, or that women who live closely together can still sense each other's cycles and we will all bleed at the same time. Young adolescent girls need to feel proud of their bodies, and special because of the differences between women and men. Menarche, or a girl's first menstruation, should be taught as an amazing step in the process of becoming a woman, and something that should be celebrated instead of hidden away.

I was never taught about sexual responses, or told that it was normal and okay to feel them. My sex education consisted entirely of scientific facts about different types of birth control, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and how to avoid lecherous men who wanted to have sex with me. Women's sexual desires were not given a voice in our curriculum, and this probably contributes greatly to women who are not comfortable with their sexuality. I really like ice cream, and that is fine because most people like ice cream. But if no one ever talked about ice cream, or told me that it was okay for me to like it, I might think that I was a little weird. The same goes for sex, except that almost all women are not told that it is okay to like it. Adults are too afraid to tell adolescents, especially girls, that sexual feelings are normal and supposed to feel good, because they think that teenagers will then run out and have unsafe sex. Instead, I think that teaching students about all aspects of sex, not just the potential bad consequences, will make them better prepared to make decisions about sex that are appropriate for them. It will also help to eliminate sexual guilt, by which an overwhelming number of people, both men and women, are affected.

A very important aspect of any type of sexuality education should be the emotional aspect. However, dwelling on how long to wait before having sex is counterproductive, and it is impossible to instruct kids on how to be 'good' at sexual activities. Unfortunately, I think that how to please your partner is one of the main questions that adolescents have about sex. Spending a few weeks on how to be emotionally mature enough to be a good sexual partner would help. Students need to be told that it's okay to be inexperienced or unsure of themselves, and that communication is vital. Open lines of communication and a willingness to talk about difficult topics are the best way to be a good partner.

Most lacking from my sex education was any information on minority sexual preferences. All discussion about sex focused on heterosexual couples having "traditional" sex. This only emphasizes that heterosexual traditional sex is the preferred, most accepted sexual behavior. When such a narrow view of sex is stressed, children who find that their tastes are not in accord with that standard will have a much more difficult time accepting themselves and being accepted by their peers. My high school sex ed classes indicated that the only type of sex people had was traditional heterosexual sex, and usually, the male was the one trying to talk the woman into having sex. This perspective limits any varying sexual act between heterosexual couples, any sex initiated or strongly desired by the woman, and any homosexual activity at all. Not only does this attitude continue to marginalize the people interested in those acts, but it can also instill them with guilt and self-hatred.

These issues are far from a real curriculum that could be instituted in high schools. But I do think that they address some of the concerns that students have, and teach about topics of which every student should be aware. Hopefully, by the time I have children who are ready to have a sexuality education class, the subjects of discussion will be more like what I wish mine had been and less like what it was.

All About Sex. Randall Blackburn, webmaster and original creator of site. Copyright 1997-2002. Accessed October 7, 2002.
Coles, Robert and Geoffrey Stokes. Sex and the American Teenager. New York: Harpers and Row, 1985.
Donovan, Deb and VanMetter, Bob. "Sexual pleasure: Learn to say goodbye to the guilt." from The Women's Network. Copyright iVillage Inc, 1995-2002. Accessed October 9, 2002. 0,10335,239441_112311-1,00.html.
Muscio, Inga. Cunt. New York: Seal Press, 1998. Personal Questions, Professional Answers. "Masturbation." Copyright 2000-2002. Accessed October 9, 2002.

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