Feature photo by Helga Weber

Ah, puberty. Who doesn’t remember being awkwardly distracted by other people’s body parts in gym class? Girls’ boobs a-bouncing and boys’ junk a-jostling—of course I didn’t want to participate. It was way more fun to watch. Come to think of it, that’s kind of my position on orgies to this day… Anyway, for me, one of the worst parts about being a horny teenager was dealing with adults who wanted to talk to me about sex. (I miss being jailbait…) From what I remember, the main topics we covered in my high school health class were: Having Babies, Ways You Could Die, and Marriage.

While the vocabulary sheets about genitalia were a good idea, I remember not feeling so great about the video of live birth that we watched. I’m pretty sure half the girls in the class ended up with baby fever, while the rest of us felt like we had been kicked in the baby maker. To this day I’m terrified of having the lower half of my body ripped open for someone who will eventually find me so annoying that they will put me in an old folks’ home.

Next our teacher passed around pictures of people who had been horribly disfigured by STIs in weird parts of their body. I can’t remember if they even told us about HIV/AIDS, but it seems like a crucial thing to mention doesn’t it? Instead, now every time anything weird is going on with my eye, I momentarily freak out that maybe it’s eye herpes and that I’ll end up with what looks like some weird root vegetable protruding from my upper lids.

Lastly, we had an abstinence until marriage speaker who brought us an obnoxious poster that had a guy with women’s names tattooed on his bicep, each one crossed off in succession to try to convince us that having sex with someone was like having their name tattooed on our body. Really? Cuz guess who thinks  tattoos are cool? Teenagers. And ten years later, I gotta admit, tattooing my partner’s names would be an awesome way to keep track. (Was it Greg? Uh…Gary…?) The highlights of that talk also included meeting “the ONE,” wedding dresses, and waiting for “that special moment.” Well, thank you, Disney Princess. Now a bunch of the girls in class are way more excited about finding a husband than they are about graduating from high school.

Essentially what we learned from our sex ed class was the following:

  • If we think we have an STI we shouldn’t tell anyone because they will all think we are hideous freaks who should be photographed by science.
  • Childbirth looks really painful and dramatic. It’s the perfect way to prove our teenage love.
  • We haven’t finished high school yet, but we should already be thinking about babies and marriage. Here we come, poverty line!

These are, of course, all the wrong things to learn from a Sex Ed class in a public school system plagued by dropouts and teen pregnancy. Thank my heavenly tits that I had been reading about sex as a hobby since I was 13 and could give my friends more factually based advice. Otherwise, way more of them would have gotten knocked up. The book that first helped me was Deal With It! A Whole New Approach to Your Body, Brain, and Life as a gURL and it’s still a great read. If there is a curious teen in your life, male, female, or any gender in between, I completely recommend the book and website at gURL.com. After all, we have as much of a responsibility to talk about sex with the teens we care about as the people who get paid to confuse them.

If it were up to me, this is what a sex education class curriculum would look like:

  • If you’re going to push abstinence at all, stress abstinence until the teen is physically and emotionally ready. Why rush things? Holding hands and getting pizza is way more romantic than ending up with bodily fluids in your hair, believe me. (Been there, done that!) But pushing marriage on horny teenagers is completely irresponsible and counterproductive to their education.
  • STI’s are a really lame part of being sexually active, but they’re not the end of the world. Kids should know the symptoms of STI’s, how to work to prevent them and also how to feel comfortable talking about them in order to get treatment if they suspect they are ill.
  • Kids need to know more than “Hey, don’t have sex and you won’t get HIV/AIDS.” We should give them information about the history and biology of the HIV/AIDS virus, its prevention, transmission, progression, and maintenance options–all the essentials that most adults still don’t know. It might even inspire one of the kids in the class to go out and help cure AIDS.
  • Sure, watching a childbirth video has its educational value, but combining info on how adorably tiny babies are when they’re born with info on contraception (not just abstinence!) would be a crucial way of lowering teen pregnancy and abortion rate.
  • Illinois requires that, when provided, “life skill lessons” in sex education emphasize how to avoid being sexually coerced. Teaching a class of teens to avoid getting raped emphasizes the misconception that it is the rape victim’s fault, whether male or female. Instead, education programs should be teaching how to avoid coercing partners and emphasizing how to establish consent before a sexual encounter. For more on this topic, stay tuned for Slutwalk Chicago.
  • How to make a prom dress out of condoms. For no real reason other than because that’s just cool.

While sex education in Chicago has improved since 2006, Illinois has a long way to go. Current requirements skimp on contraception, stress marriage, and suggest, but don’t require instruction on HIV/AIDS. Luckily there is currently a bill under discussion in the Illinois General Assembly to require more information on contraception for the prevention of STIs, pregnancy, and HIV/AIDS.  While abstinence would still be stressed, they would get rid of the compulsory “until marriage” part. So if you want annoying jerks to stop pushing marriage on kids who aren’t ready, contact your Illinois representatives and senators and tell them to vote yes on SB1619. Then hopefully, the awkward, horny teenagers of Illinois will grow up to be sexually responsible, healthy adults.

Well there, you have it, my darling adult survivors of bad sex education. We can all collectively work on healing from our traumas—like my irrational fear of eye herpes. While, I can help teens by telling you guys about this bill and contacting my representatives, I fully realize that I’m way too inappropriate to ever be a sex ed teacher at the high school level. That’s okay. At least this way I won’t ever run into any abstinence until marriage instructors and hate-fuck their husbands. Although they totally deserve it, their husbands are probably gross…

Share this! (You know you want to.)

Got something to say? Say it loud!