The Problem With Sex Education Is Not Talking About Sex

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By Landon Funk

When I was still living in Los Angeles, I went on a Netflix binge and watched The Wonder Years from start to finish. Hands down, it deserves all of the praise it has received. The show is full of heart with a  great cast and an even better writers’ room. In season one, the protagonist, a twelve-year-old boy named Kevin Arnold, goes to gym class. But this particular gym class was not gym class. It was a sexual education course led by the physical education instructor who is comedically underqualified for the job.

Does that sound like anyone else’s sex education? Yeah, me too.

The problem with sex education is that we can’t talk about sex. So why even bother? Kids are going to turn to their friends, the internet, porn, and everything in between because they crave this knowledge. If you are a parent of a child who is older than seven years old, the chances are that your child knows about sex whether you have had the conversation with them or not.

I first learned about sex from my friend Andi, a girl who had a teenage sister, when we were in the third grade. My parents wouldn’t tell me what sex really was and always skirted around the conversation by saying, “It’s where babies come from.” When I asked Andi, she was a bit more forward., making her right hand into a fist and sticking her left pointer finger out. She inserted her left finger into her fist and said, “it’s when they dad’s thing goes into the mom’s thing.” “Cool,” I now understood what my classmates were talking about.  

Kids talk about sex with their friends because it is something they cannot talk about with their parents or any other figure of authority. They simply want to know, and everywhere they turn, they are met with a new obstacle. The church teaches abstinence. Their parents don’t want to have an awkward conversation. Their school doesn’t want to have the conversation and/or teaches abstinence. Where else do children have to turn but to their friends and the internet?

Sex Ed was an “enrichment” in seventh grade at my nondenominational Christian school. It was taught by a woman who I thought was very uncomfortable teaching abstinence because she knew that that message was not going to do anyone any good. But still, that is what she taught. We listened and felt dirty, the same kind of dirty that we felt when we talked about it with our friends. Sex was this forbidden fruit, and we were Eve, curious and hungry.

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Again, I must ask: why even teach sex ed if you aren’t going to talk about sex? Our youths are hungry for knowledge, and, to be quite honest, I would much rather have an awkward sex ed class where we learn how to put a condom on a banana and the pros and cons of birth control rather than having to talk to my speculating friends or turn to PornHub (disclaimer: there is good and bad porn, but the homepage of PornHub is misogynistic and rape-y). When youths learn about sex, they are getting it from people and videos who do not know and thus cannot present the real thing.

Sex is about intimacy – whether that be for one night or many years. When we learn how to be safe with sex, everyone becomes better and more respectful. Teaching consent does not lead to teen pregnancy. Instead, it promotes the opposite. Kids are smart as hell and not to be underestimated.

So please, for the love of god, can sex education finally include sex?