Bad Sex Education Does More Damage Than You Think

Bad Sex Education Does More Damage Than You Think

Sex education is not just about sex.

Sex education: that awkward, uncomfortable, small section of health class that you had in high school, if you even had it at all. It was likely taght by a clearly uncomfortable gym teacher or school nurse, it likely used fear tactics to scare you out of having sex, and, if you went to school in one of 37 states, it likely wasn’t completely true.

Yep, in 37 states there is no requirement for sex education to be medically or factually accurate.

What the $#&@?

For some reason, policy makers don’t seem to think that accurate, comprehensive sex education is important or necessary. They’re wrong. Sex education affects a lot more than whether teenagers decide to have sex. (And, fun fact: abstinence-only sex education does not reduce the number of teens having sex.)

Sex education can affect a number of different areas in the lives of our young people and adults, and it’s time that we recognize that. Sex education is not just about sex. It's about the general health and safety of our fellow humans. Here is a list of vital parts of the human experience that bad, deceptive, incomplete or nonexistent sex education hurts.

The self-confidence of young people.

Sex education sets the stage for young people's understanding of their own bodies, especially the parts of their body that they are rarely educated about. As students experience puberty in our society, there is a lot of shame, awkwardness and ignorance about one’s own body.

If sex education instructors refuse to call genitals by name or do so with unease, they perpetuate the idea that one’s genitals are gross or shameful.

If educators use slang words instead of medically-accurate words such as penis, vagina, clitoris, etc., they spread the idea that one’s genitals should be joked about or overly sexualized.

If instructors fail to education students about the functions of their genitals, they leave these students scared and confused about their own bodies. When one does not understand their own body, they do not feel in control of it. They do not feel as though they have autonomy.

If teachers do not explain the diversity of our bodies, sexualities and emotions, they promote shame for those who are different from the arbitrarily perceived norm. We need to be educating about premature ejaculation, the diversity of labia shape and size, female ejaculation, and pubic hair.

If educators fail to discuss hormones and attraction, they leave students in fear of their feelings, worried that there’s something wrong with them.

When we provide students with medically accurate facts about their bodies, their sexualities and sex, we give them the knowledge that allows them to understand themselves and make educated decisions about their health.

Students' understanding of healthy relationships.

Sex education is one of the best opportunities to introduce young people to the ideas of consent, healthy relationships and healthy communication. If this opportunity is missed, we are allowing people to enter the world, to enter relationships, to enter other people’s intimate spaces, without the proper knowledge to protect themselves and respect others. Forgoing this opportunity to teach important values and skills increases the likelihood of violence, emotional abuse and sexual assault in the future.

The health of all people.

One of the most important aspects of sex education is the health information that it disseminates. This is why sex education is usually included within high school health classes. I would hope that health educators understand the importance that sexual health information plays in overall health.

Most sex education covers STIs. This is important. However, it is also important that the information presented about these infections is factual and honest. It’s important that prevention is covered, such as condoms, dams, etc. It’s important that stigmas are not laced along, shaming those who have contracted STIs, rather than offering help and solutions.

Sex education also provides a lot of information about general health. People should know not to douche their vaginas. They should know how to clean their testicles. They should know how to care for their bodies throughout the menstrual cycle. They should know what smegma is. They should know about urinary tract infections. Sexuality is so stigmatized that if we don’t teach our citizens about their sexual health in a course dedicated to it, they may not learn until they’ve already damaged their health.

The lives of LGBTQ+ students.

The large majority of sex education fails to mention the existence of LGBTQ+ sexualities or the experiences and health of these people. In fact, only 12 states actually require schools to talk about LGBTQ+ issues, and three of these require that LGBTQ+ people and sexualities are talked about in a negative lens. (Alabama, South Carolina, Texas) That’s messed up.

For one, not hearing their own experiences and feelings reflected in these classes puts LGBTQ+ students at risk of low self-confidence and self-image and poor health. If your existence is not acknowledged, your self-esteem can be shattered. Additionally, when same-sex sex is not mentioned, LGBTQ+ students do not learn how to have safe sex, or really, how to have sex at all. They are thus more likely to engage in risky behavior and more likely to contract STIs. This is not a fault of these students, but a fault of the system that is supposed to support and educate them.

Additionally, the absence of LGBTQ+-inclusive language and topics in sex education classrooms means that heterosexual/cisgender students are not provided with information that can help them better understand and accept their LGBTQ+ peers. This increases intolerance and bullying.

People’s sex lives.

Whether it’s at age 15, on their wedding night or in their 60s, the large majority of people are going to be having sex at some point in their lives. If they are never introduced to it in an academic way – if their only reference points are movies, books, porn or word of mouth – their sexual encounters are likely to be dangerous, painful and unfulfilling. We should be teaching people that the clitoral stimulation is, in many to most cases, more pleasurable than vaginal stimulation for women. We should be teaching people to use lube. We should be teaching people what oral sex is. By teaching these things, if done in a professional and factual manner, we are not encouraging or discouraging people to have sex. Rather, we are encouraging people, whenever in their life they may decide to become sexually active, to have safe, healthy, enjoyable sex.

Not talking about sex or instilling fear about sex does not stop young people from having sex. Study after study has proven this. Rather, it stops young people from having a heathy understanding of sex. It stops young people from understanding and having autonomy over their bodies. It stops education about diversity and acceptance. It hurts health, it hurts self-confidence, it hurts lives.

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Stop Discourging Future Teachers

One day, you'll be thankful for us.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?" It seems like this is the question we heard from the time we were able to talk. Our answers started out as whatever movie or action figure was popular that year. I personally was going to be Cinderella and shoot spider webs out of my wrists at the same time. The next phase was spent choosing something that we read about in a book or saw in movies. We were aspiring to be actors, skydivers, and astronauts.

After we realized NASA may not necessarily be interested in every eager 10-year-old, we went through the unknown stage. This chapter of life can last a year or for some, forever. I personally did not have a long “unknown" stage. I knew I was going to be a teacher, more specifically I knew I wanted to do elementary or special education. I come from a family of educators, so it was no surprise that at all the Thanksgiving and Christmas functions I had actually figured it out. The excitement of knowing what to do with the rest of my life quickly grew and then began to dwindle just as fast.


"Well, looks like you'll be broke all your life."

“That's a lot of paperwork."

“If I could go back and do it again, I wouldn't choose this."

These are just a few replies I have received. The unfortunate part is that many of those responses were from teachers themselves. I get it, you want to warn and prepare us for the road we are about to go down. I understand the stress it can take because I have been around it. The countless hours of grading, preparing, shopping for the classroom, etc. all takes time. I can understand how it would get tiresome and seem redundant. The feeling a teacher has when the principal schedules yet another faculty meeting to talk an hour on what could've been stated in an email… the frustration they experience when a few students seem uncontrollable… the days they feel inadequate and unseen… the sadness they feel when they realize the student with no supplies comes from a broken home… I think it is safe to say that most teachers are some of the toughest, most compassionate and hardworking people in this world.

Someone has to be brave enough to sacrifice their time with their families to spend time with yours. They have to be willing to provide for the kids that go without and have a passion to spread knowledge to those who will one day be leading this country. This is the reason I encourage others to stop telling us not to go for it.

Stop saying we won't make money because we know. Stop saying we will regret it, because if we are making a difference, then we won't. Stop telling us we are wasting our time, when one day we will be touching hearts.

Tell us to be great, and then wish us good luck. Tell us that our passion to help and guide kids will not go unnoticed. Tell us that we are bold for trying, but do not tell us to change our minds.

Teachers light the path for doctors, police officers, firefighters, politicians, nurses, etc. Teachers are pillars of society. I think I speak for most of us when I say that we seek to change a life or two, so encourage us or sit back and watch us go for it anyways.

Cover Image Credit: Kathryn Huffman

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14 Honest College Things The Class Of 2023 Needs To Know ~Before~ Fall Semester

Sit down, be humble.


To The Class of 2023,

Before you start your college career, please know:

1. Nobody...and I mean nobody gives a shit about your AP Calculus scores.


" I got a 5 in Calc AB AND BC, a 5 in AP Literature, awh but I only got a 4 in AP Chem"

2. THE SAME GOES FOR YOUR SAT/ACT SCORES + nobody will know what you're talking about because they changed the test like 10 times since.


3. College 8 AMs are not the same as your 0 period orchestra class in 12th grade.


4. You're going to get rejected from a lot of clubs and that does not make you a failure.


5. If you do get into your clubs, make sure not to overwhelm or overcommit yourself.

visual representation of what it looks like when you join too many clubs


6. It's OK to realize that you don't want to be pre-med or you want to change majors.


7. There will ALWAYS ALWAYS be someone who's doing better than you at something but that doesn't mean you're behind.


8. "I'm a freshman but sophomore standin-" No, you don't have to clarify that, you'll sound like an asshole.


9. You may get your first ever B-, C+ or even D OR EVEN A W in your life. College is meant to teach you how to cope with failure.


10. Go beyond your comfort zone. Join a theatre club if you're afraid of public speaking. Join an animal rescue club if you're afraid of animals. College is learning more about yourself.


11. Scholarships do exist. APPLY APPLY APPLY.


12. Don't try to brag about all the stuff you did in high school, you'll just sound like a weenie hut jr. scout


13. Understand and be sensitive to the fact that everybody around you has a different experience and story of getting to university.


14. You're going to be exposed to people with different opinions and views, don't fight them. Instead, try to explain your perspective and listen to their reasoning as well.


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