Actually Getting Something Out of Sex Ed
Yes, it’s only the beginning of August. But the beginning of August means the end of summer and, of course, the return to school. And if that thought isn’t depressing enough, consider this—the return of school means the return of one of the most cringe-worthy classes of a person’s high school career: sex ed.
If you’re in a school that requires sex ed, then most likely, you’re being subjected to your gym teacher and some overly dramatic (fairly gross in some cases) slides. Almost definitely, you’re watching cheesy health videos made before you were born. Best case scenario, your school’s sex ed program is top notch, up to date, and taught by a talented and funny teacher. But even then, it can still feel pretty awkward because…hello. It’s sex ed. Here’s the thing: no matter how good or bad your sex ed program is, there is still something you can get out of it. Here’s how:
Pay attention to the health facts. No matter how out of touch your sex ed class may feel, the health facts presented are probably accurate and useful things to keep in mind. Even if you’re not ready for the information yet, knowing about pregnancy, STIs, and birth control can certainly come in handy in the future. Sure health facts can be a little boring to listen to, but that information will serve both you and your friends well. Plus, if you actually pay attention, then you can be the sex expert in your group of friends. (And take it from me, that can be a fun role!)
Ask questions. Use this time to your advantage by asking your teacher whatever questions you have about the health or relationship angles of sex. If you don’t feel comfortable asking these questions in front of the class, then at least make a mental note about what your questions are. Later on, you can Google your questions, ask your mom/dad/another trusted adult, or better yet, your doctor. He/she is bound to keep anything you ask confidential from your parents—so you don’t have to worry about privacy issues there. If you do decide to Google your questions, just make sure that you end up at a trusted website like this one, Planned Parenthood, Sex, Etc, or anything else run by a reputable organization.
Talk about it. This class is a great excuse to start having open and honest conversations about sex with your friends or your bf/gf. Sex and relationships can be VERY confusing, and having a group of people you can talk to honestly about those topics is invaluable. Seriously. Too many people feel pressure to put up a front about sex around their friends. But the reality is, pretty much everyone finds sex a little bit scary and intimidating. The more open you and your friends can be with one another, the more supported you’ll feel when making whatever though decisions may arise.
Question it. Not all sex ed programs are created equal. And the truth is, yours may contain values that don’t align with your own. It’s perfectly okay to question some of the messages you get in your class. The best sexual decisions are made by paying close attention to your own needs and making sure that you are honest and respectful of your partner.The point of sex ed is not to scare you away from sex or make you feel guilty about it. The point is to give you information that will best prepare you for whatever romantic and sexual situations may arise. So however the information is presented (and however ugly the track suit the person presenting it is wearing), it’s up to you to make the most of it.
So, did we change your mind about the value of the dreaded sex ed class? Already had your sex ed class? Did you get anything out of it?
Amber Madison has been writing about sex, love, and relationships since college (she went to Tufts University) when she wrote for her school newspaper's sex ed column. Since graduating, she's published two books: Hooking Up: A Girl's All-Out Guide to Sex and Sexuality and Talking Sex With Your Kids and has been quoted in a ton of different media outlets from Seventeen magazine to MTV to NPR. Have a question for Amber? Send us an email!
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