My parents never brought up the subject of sex with me. Like, ever. I think they hoped that if they never mentioned anything about it, I would just magically avoid learning about my body and penises until I turned 30. But I did learn about sex early on — in fact, I already had a rudimentary idea of what sex was before I had to take sex ed in high school. The concept of sex was this conglomerated entity for me, slowly created over time as I secretly watched episodes of Sex and the City, and asked friends’ older sisters what “blow job” meant. I can only imagine what it’s like now with the endlessly incriminating Internet, but by the time I took sex ed, I thought I knew the basics. Minus the actual important aspects, like the multitudes of safe sex, sexuality, and the intricacies of sex itself. So, this is where sex ed should step in and fill that sexually-confused void with valid details and universal truths we all must know as hormonally-budding teenagers. Does sex ed actually fulfill its course name? Most of the time, no. No it does not.
Sex ed varies from district to district and school to school, so maybe your experience was more thorough than mine. When it came to sex, I primarily only learned that the best way to go about not getting an STD or impregnated was to abstain from sex. And this is true — when you don’t have sex (or engage in sexual activities), you have a slim chance of contracting AIDS or creating an infant. But since high-schoolers have sex anyway, it would have been cool to discuss the alternatives. In detail. So we can leave high-school and feel comfortable with our bodies and the way they work. I think this would be beneficial for everyone, and would reduce unwanted pregnancies, the spread of diseases, and overall confusion. Here are 17 topics that should really be covered in sex ed, but almost never are:
Only have sex with someone if you want to – period
Our sex ed text books might cover the “sexual pressures” we face from strangers, but they never really discussed what to do when the person you’re already having sex with wants to bang, and you absolutely do not. Even if you’ve had sex a thousand times with this person, you have every right to say no if you don’t feel like doing it. You don’t have to make up excuses. Or feel guilty. Your body is yours and you can have sex whenever you feel like it (if your partner is cool with it too, of course.)
“Ready” is subjective
Everyone throws around the phrase “when you’re ready to have sex,” but no one actually talks about what “ready” means. I was a junior in high school when I had sex for the first time, and after hiding this for awhile, I decided to make an appointment with my doctor to talk about birth control. My mom, who came with me, asked the doctor, “Is it normal for girls her age to be having sex?” And my doctor replied, “No. It’s not. Girls normally start in their early twenties.” First of all, don’t ever let anyone slut shame you, especially your doctor. That was incredibly unprofessional, and I’ll remember that moment for the rest of my life, because I was already scared and freaked out. I didn’t need a medical professional telling me my choice to have sex was an outlier decision. The sad thing about it, was that I wasn’t ready. But I thought sex was what you did when you dated someone, so I went with it. However, if you feel ready, then you feel ready. Think about it for awhile. Like, really think about it. When the time comes, use protection. Know that maybe someday you might regret your decision, or you might not.
What your hymen really is
Urban legends that stem from more pious, ancient times suggest that the hymen is this thick wall of skin that can only be broken when you lose your virginity. In reality, it’s more like tissue with a hole in it that can be stretched out by various sorts of objects. You can break your hymen in a thousand ways, most of them not including sexual intercourse. Likewise, you can have sex and still have a hymen that is intact to some degree.
All vaginas, boobs, and butts are unique. Don’t be ashamed of yours.
I was SO ashamed of my body as it changed, because I had no idea what was “normal” and what wasn’t. My mom never really told me what would happen as I grew older, so my ever-transforming self really freaked out. It took a long time for me to realize that the perfect vagina, perfect breasts, and perfect butt were non-existent.
In fact, while we’re on vaginas, Google the anatomy of one. Hold a mirror up to yours and get to know it
Get up close and personal with yourself. Do it. Your vagina is awesome and yours and you should be familiar with it.
There are a ton of birth control options, and many are free or at least covered by insurance
In high school, I thought that in order to go on birth control, you would have to tell your parents and pay a lot of money. And since I definitely didn’t want that, I acquired birth control pills from a friend who decided they weren’t right for her. You guys. I got second-hand pills. From a friend. It was like the birth control black market. This is seriously the worst idea in the world. I could have very easily just gone to Planned Parenthood and asked, though. Know that there are many options besides condoms and pills, and make an appointment with a doctor so he or she can explain what everything is and you can decide what’s good for you.
If you or your partner have had sex before with someone else, get tested. It’s free at a lot of places.
Because you can never be too safe.
Planned Parenthood is a wonderful resource and we are lucky to have it. Use it if you need to.
Back in high school, Planned Parenthood carried a negative stigma, so no one wanted to go. Which was stupid. I feel stupid for ever feeling this way. Republicans have been trying to tear down every single PP facility in America since the dawn of time, but so far, they haven’t succeeded. And here we are, NOT using their services to our fullest advantage. Planned Parenthood is a wonderful, safe space. Yes, you may have to wait for like two hours to see your doctor. But it’s worth it. Bring a book.
Use lube. Do not hold back.
I KNOW you will want to be naturally oozing with bodily fluids when the time comes time to get it on, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Or even if you are good to go, lube makes everything better and less painful, because yes: sex can sometimes hurt, and usually that pain can be handled with proper lubrication. LUBRICATION. I’ll say it forever.
Pee after sex
Always pee after sex. You will avoid so many trips to the doctor for UTI meds. Also, don’t be stupid and ignore a UTI. If bacteria stays in your urethra, it will gladly travel to your kidneys and wreak havoc. You do not want this. Cranberry juice is great, but antibiotics are better.
Orgasms take practice, and you probably won’t get there the first few times
Sex is not like the movies. It takes time to be “good” at sex and fully enjoy it. The best thing you can do for yourself is get comfortable with your body and with your partner.
Don’t have sex to prove anything to anyone
Don’t use sex as a measurement for anything, including your self-worth, how much your boyfriend or girlfriend likes you, or your level of cool.
If a guy refuses to use a condom, do not waste your time with him
If a dude doesn’t want to use a condom because “it doesn’t feel as good,” then tell him he can go and get vasectomy. Okay, maybe don’t do that because that’s a little harsh. But seriously, don’t let a guy be selfish enough to refuse putting on protection. He’s doing this for himself AND you — a condom isn’t there to enhance his sexual experience, it’s there to make sure you two don’t pass any heinous cooties between you, and to ensure that he doesn’t squirt baby sauce up into your vagina-hole. These are very important things. These are, in fact, non-negotiable things. Do not negotiate condom use with anyone ever.
And no, pulling out is not a viable option to protect yourselves
Pre-come is the same thing as semen. Protect. Yo. Selves.
If you’re on the pill and still feel nervous about it, ask him to use a condom
It can be nerve-racking to go “bareback” or whatever, so feel free to use a back-up plan. Being cautious IS sexy.
Your boobs will get sore from time to time
Depending on your hormones and birth control method, boob soreness is totally normal. It usually means they’re growing, or your hormone levels are shifting. Do check yourself for breast cancer on the regular, though. They should definitely be teaching girls how to feel themselves up for safety.
Sexuality is totally fluid
Homosexuality and bisexuality almost never get covered in sex ed, and that’s a serious shame. Hopefully our society will progress enough to include these topics (also including gender identification), because it would save A LOT of unnecessary frustration, confusion, and guilt. If you’re a girl and you’re attracted to both girls and guys, that is TOTALLY FINE. If you’re a boy and only like boys, that’s perfectly okay too. Don’t let anyone make you feel that your sexuality is abnormal. And furthermore, don’t let anyone pressure you into deciding “what you are,” because our preferences can change and labels are just a social construct.