Only in America, right?
Sadly, for many Australians, their sexual education wasn't (or isn't) much better than this hilarious scene from Mean Girls. We asked staff from the Council to give us their stories. There are funny, frustrating, even sad, considering some of them are from only a few years ago! Here they are:
1. Nuns Offer Salvation
In five years at high school, our sexual education consisted of one lesson, during Religious Education, in year 10. Three - yes three - nuns were brought in (they didn’t work at the school and we’d never met them before) to demonstrate the various contraceptive alternatives, whilst recording their failure rates on the board. Questions were discouraged. At the end of the lesson we were told in no uncertain terms that there is no point using contraception as they can all fail, and using them would result in eternal damnation anyway. Abstinence is the only way! It was almost entirely focused on pregnancy, with only some explanation of STIs – and absolutely no mention of any other sex than heterosexual penis-in-vagina.
2. Hot Showers for Contraception?
Ahh year 10 - probably one of the best-yet-worst years, being out of middle school but the youngest of upper school - scary! The year 11’s apparently knew everything and I heard lots of myths about sex, like how having a hot shower after sex would prevent pregnancy or STI’s meant getting sores and lumps like the gross pictures.
With so many rumors, I was excited to start health class, but unfortunately there wasn’t a whole heap of myth busting going on. In one class we were assigned an STI and to do a poste about it. We had 1 hour only and during that time all we did was Google STI pictures and copy the information from that most credible of sources, Wikipedia.
3. Oui Oui? Yes Please!
I was in an all girls’ school during my high school years and so when it came time for “the talk” at school we were dedicated one night in the fourth year of schooling. It was an evening with refreshments for the mothers (no fathers allowed). We sat down and watched a quick film about the “horrors” of pre marital sex and a cartoon display of the diseases that you could catch and that you could get pregnant.
There were no discussions about how it happened and what caused it. So my main education came from the older girls in the school. And well let’s just say that scared me more than anything!
I thought when I became old enough to begin menstruation that I was dying. I had no idea what to do or where to put anything. My mother threw me some old towels and a couple of safety pins and said “put this on”. Put it on where? And why was I bleeding in the first place? So assured that I was about to live the last day of my life, I went into my brother and cried and told him I was dying. Once I explained how I knew he sat with me and told me about the “birds and bees”. When I think of it now, I am horrified that I had my brother telling me this stuff, but luckily he and I were close, and he got his girlfriend to finish off the education. Going through the younger part of my teens I was scared and did not know if everything was ok. I relied on “stories” from other girls who always exaggerated. French kiss? When was I going to meet a French man?????
4. Puberty is Only for Boys, Apparently...
Despite going to an all-girls catholic school, my sex education at school provided a surprising amount of information about male sexuality with very little attention given to female sexuality at all. I remember watching a video about male puberty, with no such accompanying video for females. The video talked about how boys may experiences wet dreams and how it is normal for boys to start to masturbate. My friends and I laughed as we reflected back years later that we actually didn’t even know that women could masturbate until far (far!) too late in life.
5. You Can't Ask That!
When I was in year 6 and at a religiously affiliated school, we were given our first ever sex education. Just like most other groups in this situation, everyone seemed to be saying how much they were dreading it and how it was gross, when meanwhile deep down you could tell everyone was so excited to talk about this elusive thing called sexual education.
The class ended up being entirely about puberty; you will grow hair here, your voice will drop etc. There was a moment when they asked if anyone had any questions, and I remember putting my hand up, and asking “why are people gay?” The level of laughter that exploded out of the room was ridiculous. I can honestly say that I had no idea what was so funny. Worse than the laughter though was my teacher’s response:
“That is not an appropriate question. You have to ask me that after class……”
The class then went back to the general information and I waited until after class. I approached my teacher asking first why he reacted that way to which he responded: “being a Christian school parents wouldn’t want their children knowing that happens”. Which then led me to my original question “why are people gay?” His answer is something I have not forgotten:
“People become gay because they have committed many sexual sins and the only way to satisfy their cravings for lust is to sleep with someone of the same gender.”
It’s hard to say, but at the time I don’t think it was some subconscious inner gay me trying to find answers, I think I asked because I was genuinely curious but once realisation of my own sexuality came to be, I couldn’t help but think that I had somehow by the age of 12 or 13 lowered myself to the lowest forms of depravity and it took me until 18 to begin the process of accepting myself and up until 21 or 22 to achieve it.
As a side note apparently the kids all laughed in the class when I asked my question because it made me look gay, which I still am not entirely sure how.
6. Wouldn't That Be Weird...
I was in year 9 having my annual sex ed which was taught in Physical Education class. My school would separate boys and girls and spend 1 of the 2 PE classes a week on sex ed. In the class we were talking about spontaneous erections and the inappropriate nature of them and the uncontrollability of them. My teacher was saying that it didn’t mean arousal necessarily and that you could get them during the most mundane tasks, like while sitting in math class. He also said “since we are talking about them now, if you had one that would be weird.” I will be completely honest and say I did find myself erect and a large part of that could have been due to the constant talk of erections! It was just another time that I was told something about my sexual self was different and weird.
7. Uninformed Teacher
During my sexual education we got the typical STI talk paired with pictures, ‘this is a dick with chlamydia’, ‘this a vagina with gonorrhoea’... Little was my teacher aware that in 90% of situations those two diseases are asymptomatic.
8. Marriage = BDSM??
At my co-ed Uniting Church school, Year 9 was the designated year of ‘Sex Ed Camp’. A name that promised so much unfortunately led to great disappointment. The only memory I have is where we were all crowded into the camp mess hall, the lights were dimmed and we were subjected to a deliberately ‘horrifying’ Powerpoint slideshow of various STIs and their symptoms. The following day we were partnered up with someone of the opposite sex and then our arms were literally tied together and we had to walk around for hours together, in an attempt to learn about what marriage was like…!?
Luckily, it isn't all bad...
9. What is a Blue Viener?!
Fortunately, my sexual education wasn’t terrible. In primary school (year 7), at the first lesson in series of sexual health lessons, we were asked to name all the funny names we had for genitals. There were some atrocious ones (i.e. “blue veiner”) on the board but it was a good icebreaker. We then had sexual anatomy pictures and figures around the classroom for about a month. They even talked about anal sex!
10. GP Saves the Day
Not education, but I’ll never forget my first STI test.
My fist test 2004; I was 18 years old. Recently started having sex with men and still quite unsure about my sexual orientation. My local GP was a nice older lady who I had been seeing since I was 2 years old. The courage needed to tell her what I had been doing behind closed doors was like having giant road-runner like weights on my feet as I slowly walked (in shame) to the Dr’s room. Being an innocent country boy from the wheat belt it was if I was coming out to my parents (which didn’t happen for another year). I burst into tears and said ‘I think I’m gay’ which at the time I thought it was the worst thing in the world.
My GP was surprised and assumed that I had been with a girl and was expecting a baby (it turned out she was confusing me with my older brother); this certainly didn’t help. As I sat there and thought ‘oh god, now she knows what I have been doing’ I felt too uncomfortable to stay there and just got up and left. The following day the GP called me at home, mum answered the phone and gave the call straight to me. She wanted to see me, I went down to the clinic immediately and as I walked into her office there was a 30 something year old man in her room, as it turned out, it was her gay son. This ultimately gave me the confidence to discuss my issues with my GP with her son present (not as awkward as it sounds) the test was done, the results were fine and I get tested with the same GP even now every 6 – 12 months. Awesome!
Study after study has proven the effectiveness of sex positive, comprehensive sexual education. Recipients of complete sex ed are more likely to delay their first instance of sexual activity and are more likely to participate in safe sex practices. The WA AIDS Council offers a range of education and training programs. Click here for more information.