I believe I recall correctly that when I was in school we had some kind of sexual education. It would’ve been in high school, in our Phys Ed class. And as AIDS was looming large, we learned quick sharp how to apply a condom properly as if our lives depended on it. And quite frankly, they did.
But The Mom had got onto the whole sex ed business years before any of that. I remember we got a video from the library, that L’il Sis adored because of the funny cartoon people. Now, this wasn’t anything explicit, it was geared at kids our age, and we happily watched it for hours. It talked about how people came in all shapes and sizes, and so did breasts, and penises, and it talked about reproduction, and having fun, all in a vague liberal 1970s kind of way. I mean, we were raised on Marlo Thomas’s Free to be You and Me book, which we also loved.
Even though we started to learn about sex during the AIDS epidemic, sex ed was slightly less terrifying then than it is now. The debate about whether or not to have sex education in schools rages on here too, as well as at home. And me, I’ve never understood why it’s a debate at all. It’s like having an instructional manual to your own body. I mean, before you let a kid drive a car, you make them take lessons. So they don’t kill themselves or someone else. Why would’n’t you teach them how to use their own bodies respectfully too?
My siblings and I have been very lucky with The Mom and her attitudes towards sex. When we were in high school, she reminded us where the condoms were kept in the house. She wasn’t encouraging us to use them (and frankly, if you have to sneak into your mother’s bathroom to get a rubber, that pretty much puts you off having any kind of sexual antics) but rather wanted us to know there was nothing wrong with it, and also to not catch anything or get knocked up.
In high school, we all knew that you could go to the clinic and they had a bowl of rubbers right there on the counter that you were free to take. No questions asked, no hassle. We always had some, mostly because we thought it was hilarious to bust them out at random moments that would ensure the highest embarrassment from whatever adult was driving us crazy.
I don’t remember anyone’s older brother or sister teaching me what to do should the possibility of sex come up, but then, I didn’t have a boyfriend for real until I went to university. Late bloomer, and since a lot of my close pals in high school were boys, I knew them well enough to realise that dating them wouldn’t end well.
It’s funny when you think about it. Kids are sent to school to learn. Education is the way we train up good, decent people. We don’t trust our kids to have their parents teach them about math, and literature, and science, so why on earth do we think they’ll be any good at this? Especially since parents are overworked and people hardly even eat dinner together any more. And what parent knows more about the internet than their kids? Parents have no idea what’s going on out there in the ether. At least teachers have a chance – they spend more time with kids than parents do so they’ll have at least an inclining as to what’s going on.
And, now here I’ll sound like an old person, but never mind. When I was learning about sex in school, and from my parents, they used to always say that you ought to only sleep with people you really cared about, because sex was special. It was so special in fact that it wasn’t called having sex, it was called making love. Now, I find that phrase cringe-worthy, but it makes a nice point, especially in the era where we have to remind people on a day to day basis what consent means. There’s something sweet and lovely about the idea that we should teach our kids about making love.