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Sex Ed: Where Has Your Cookie Been?

This is crossposted at: Randomly Ray

I started asking about sex when I was 8 or 9 years old. I would hear things or see things on T.V. that I didn’t understand, so I asked. No one would answer my questions. No one would tell me anything. When I asked, they said I was too young or didn’t need to know. My parents, it seemed to me, had no intention of ever telling me anything about sex. One day, when I was 10 years old, I was in the garage with my aunt’s brother-in-law who was then 17. We were talking as he worked on his motorbike and he casually said, “You can always talk to me about anything. Ask me anything you want.” So I asked. His response?“It’s easy. You put yours in hers. Simple.”

Not to mention charming. But at least it was an answer. Then he showed me his porno stash which he kept under his bed. Swedish Erotica. I admit I was fascinated. And very turned on which made him laugh.

A week later, I was at my aunt’s house again for the weekend and my aunt and uncle went to a movie. He and I were alone in the house watching the Miss America Pageant. He told me that he thought it would be better if he showed me how to have sex, rather than just telling me and showing me pictures. He told me the things we were going to do were the things I should do with a girl, but that he would teach me everything I needed to know. It sounded like a good idea to me, even though I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Be careful what you ask for.

He then asked me to perform oral sex on him, telling me what to do. I did. And for the next year or so things progressed. Once he and I were lying on the floor under some blankets with the T.V. on and having sex. My aunt woke up and went into the kitchen then went back down the hall to her bedroom, stopping along the way to tell us to turn off the T.V. and get to sleep. There was a wooded area at the end of the street where he would take me to have sex. Once, he asked me to hide and watch while he had sex with his girlfriend. It ended when he was expelled from school and my uncle threw him out of the house. But the situation might have been avoided if someone had only answered my questions and told me the things I wanted and needed to know.

Later, when I was teaching, the state required us to teach a unit on AIDS awareness. They sent us the materials needed to discuss the issue, focusing, of course, on abstinence as the answer. I remember one “lesson,” was called, “Where has your cookie been?” You were to bring a bag of cookies, take one out, have the students pass it around letting everyone touch it. One student even took a bite. Then you were to place that cookie back in the bag with the others and ask a student to take a cookie from the bag. Of course, they all declined– no one wanted to risk getting the cookie that had been around and touched by everyone.

Lesson learned.

I felt bad about the sex-negative quality of the AIDS unit, but it was dictated by the state. I did my best to counter that by allowing students to ask any questions they had and answering honestly. “You’re not married. I bet you didn’t wait.” “No, I didn’t.” “Do you wear a condom when you have sex?” “Yes.” “When was the last time you had sex?” “Last night.” “Was it good?” “It was awesome.” “What’s a menage a trois?” “I didn’t take French. I took Spanish.” “Very funny. What is it?” “It’s sex between 3 people instead of 2.” One student said he wasn’t sure how to put a condom on. Sarcastically (I thought), I said I would demonstrate but didn’t have any condoms. The next day, the child’s mother came into my classroom and asked to speak to me privately. “My son says you need these,” she said, and handed me a box of Trojans. “I’ll put them to good use,” I promised with a smile.

Our parents, to their credit, supporteed comprehensive sex education when it was proposed to them. Studies have shown that most adults would prefer a comprehensive sex education course. It’s the schools and the states who are out of touch.

The next year, when I was teaching in the Freshman program, the Director of the school thought we should teach a unit on sex ed. I was teaching the Biology class so I was the best suited, she felt. The first year I taught the unit alone, the second year it was co-taught with a female colleague. Both years it was taught as a co-ed class. I was fortunate enough to find a website (which is no longer online) with a comprehensive unit that covered everything I wanted to teach. In the Biology class I taught them about reproduction. In the Life Skills class, I taught them about the more social aspects of sex. This part of the class was generated primarily from the student’s own questions. We, of course, covered STD’s and AIDS, safer sex, and birth control, including the issue of abortion (one student had a friend who was 16 and had had two abortions). We talked about sexual orientation (most students knew friends or relatives who were gay). We discussed abstinence, but only as one option. With the parent’s consent, we gave the students the information we compiled and answered all of their questions to the best of our ability. We joked around a lot. On the first day, I started by saying, “Sex is a dirty disgusting thing you only do with someone you love.” “That’s stupid,” one girl said. “See,” I told them, “You’re smarter than they think you are.” By the time the unit was finished, the students were tired of talking about it. “I’m only 15,” one said, “I’m too young to be dealing with all of this.” And that was his educated choice.

Lesson learned.

Kids are smarter than we give them credit for. Sometimes, they’re smarter than we are. They are certainly more open-minded and often braver than we are. Sex education is still, for the most part fear based and guilt ridden, not to mention hypocritical. Yet we persist, in spite of evidence from a study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unwanted Pregnancy that,

“There is no strong evidence so far that abstinence-only programs keep kids from having sex. Abstinence-only programs that have been evaluated did not affect teens’ sexual behavior,”

and a survey by the Journal of Adolescent Health that found,

“students who got comprehensive sex education are half as likely to become teen parents as those who got abstinence-only instruction or no sex education.”

If we truly believed, as we tell them, that knowledge is power, then we would arm our students with the truth and the facts and the answers they want and need. There is little or nothing to fear. And ignorance is far from bliss.

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