Sunday 21 April 2013

10 Tales Of Sexual Misinformation

After sex-ed speaker Pam Stenzel made headlines for giving a controversial lecture to high-schoolers in West Virginia, we asked readers to send us their own stories of sexual education misinformation.
A May 2012 survey found that more than 50 percent of men and women ages 18-29 were misinformed about contraception, so we were (sadly) unsurprised that we received quite a few submissions.
Here are 10 sex ed horror stories from eight women and two men, mostly in their 20s and early 30s. We'd like to think that things have changed for the better over the last decade or two, but considering that the Ohio House Finance Committee approved a budget bill Wednesday that includes an amendment banning teachers from discussing "gateway sexual activity" (i.e. pretty much anything besides kissing), we remain skeptical:

Rachel Puleo, 22: "No one wants to eat this peanut butter cup, so why would someone want to have sex with you?" 
I grew up in a small town in Ga. I do not remember learning much about actual "safe sex." I do remember, however, my teacher passing out an "abstinence card" and I was made to sign it, promising that I wouldn't have sex until marriage. I also remember my teacher passing a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup around class, telling us to "do whatever we wanted to it." After people had licked it, thrown it on the ground, stuck their pencil into it, etc., she claimed that "having sex with more than one person is exactly the same. No one wants to eat this peanut butter cup, so why would someone want to have sex with you if you have been 'passed around.'"
If I didn't have such a wonderful mother who wasn't embarrassed or ashamed to really teach me what's up with sex, I would be clueless right now.
Naomi Kritzer, 39: "It didn't debunk the myths -- I think you were just supposed to know"
When I went to high school, my 9th grade health class showed us an educational film strip that involved dumb teenagers reciting myths ("You know, a girl can't get pregnant if it's her first time!") It then didn't debunk the myths -- I think you were just supposed to know. Recent research has noted that it's actually risky to debunk myths because just by repeating them, you reinforce them. When you repeat and then don't debunk? Dude. WRONG WAY TO DO IT. It was Madison, though, and the 1980s, so at least they did tell us that condoms would help to protect us from HIV.
Melissa Rinkel, 22: "Who would ever want you when there's a sparkling virgin over there?"
We all got a sex-ed presentation in middle school. They kept the boys and girls together because the presentation wouldn't work without boys. They had two girls holding clear cups of clean water. They then gave several boys cups of water and had them swish it around in their mouths before spitting it into one girl's cup. This was supposed to represent what sex does to you, I guess. Turns you into a nasty grimy cup of spit water. Who would ever want you when there's a sparkling virgin right over there?
Kathy O'Donnell: "He told us there was no such thing as rape"
OK, I'm really dating myself, but here goes: I went to a Catholic high school in the early 1970's. They brought in a supposed doctor to talk with the junior and senior girls about sex, and he told us that there was no such thing as rape because the thigh muscles in a woman's body were so strong that she could resist if she really wanted to. When we got home that day, my best friend (a rebel then and now!), laid down on the ground and asked one of our guy friends to see if he pull her legs apart, which of course he did with no problem at all. So that theory was blown out of the water, but the message of shame and misogyny was still delivered and absorbed. He also poo-poohed any sort of symptoms that girls might feel with their periods as not real -- two of the nuggets I actually remember from his talk.
Laura Lape, 25: "The teacher had us write a letter explaining that we had just been given the news that we had AIDS"
When I was a freshman, we had an abstinence program take over our health class for a week. One week we had to act out STDs and I was assigned chlamydia. My mom still talks about how I came home from school and announced that I was chlamydia to the family.
But that wasn't the worst. On the last day, the teacher dimmed the lights and had us write out a letter explaining to our friends and family that we had just been given the news that we had AIDS, and explained how we had contracted it. After an hour of people crying in class and thinking about death, she tried to encourage us to keep that letter with us. No one did and most of us threw it away before we left the room.
Natalie Garrett, 30: "Two rabbits were brought into the classroom and proceeded to get busy"
At school (a Convent, no less) the teachers thought the best way to teach sex education was with a practical display of nature at work. So, two rabbits were brought into the classroom and proceeded to get busy. Unfortunately, the male kept resolutely humping the female’s head, and refused to do it any other way even when the teacher intervened to help out. I’m not entirely sure what the take-home message from this lesson was meant to be!
Amanda K. Mazurkiewicz, 32: "The average student likely couldn't take sex ed at all"
When I graduated high school in 1998, my hometown in middle Wisconsin had strict pre-requisites for sex education. You had to have already taken and passed Biology and Biology 2 with a B average or above. So the average student likely couldn't take sex ed at all. The class also required a parent's signature for permission to take the class if you were under the age of 18. The only exception to all pre-requisites was if you were pregnant. The [guidance] counselors said it was to help you decide whether or not to keep your baby and how to best raise it.
The first day of class was an infamous video of an abortion being practiced in gruesome detail, so it was known throughout the school do NOT take sex ed -- it was disgusting! They also showed video of failed abortions from the 1960s with interviews. This was especially disturbing to any girls who were pregnant and waived into the class.
This was how our school put the cart before the horse and also scared anyone who was pregnant into not aborting a baby. For us sex ed was not a class anyone really wanted to take. It was equated to baby dissecting. In my graduating class we had 66 girls and 12 were pregnant by graduation day -- one with her second baby. Our sex-ed policy did not work but as far as I know, they still have this policy today.
Maddi Sears, 21: "Apparently, the missionary position was all she was aware of"
I went to a very liberal private school in Alabama, so my whole grade was surprised when it was announced that we were to attend a mandatory sex education course. The speaker was a University of Alabama alum who began by telling the story of a good Christian girl’s first boyfriend. Our school was secular with a predominantly atheist student body along with a good representation of Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist students, so her Christian rhetoric was another shock.
It was obvious from the start this was going to be one of those corny stories where at the end she reveals that, surprise surprise, the speaker was the same girl from the story. Anyway, the story goes, she was one of the only virgins left in her class, and as head cheerleader, she was often teased and goaded into having sex with her studly beau. But she stayed strong with help from her good friend Jesus and even got her boyfriend to become a “born again virgin.” They waited till their sophomore year in college to get married and it was so much more meaningful because of it.
Cheesy story aside, the best part of her whole spiel was the catchphrase she kept throwing out and encouraging us to adopt: “just stay vertical.” Apparently, the missionary position was all she was aware of. Ever since her speech, “staying vertical” became code in my school for sneaking away to have sex. She certainly didn’t deter any of us.
Jeremy Geopfert, 31: "We were told that masturbation would make us sterile"
I was exposed to abstinence-only education in suburban northeastern Ohio in the late 90's. A "nurse" came in for a discussion in our sex ed class in 7th grade. She preached the dangers of sex of any sort prior to marriage. She held up a fishing net (the kind you would land a bass in) and dropped marbles through it, showing how easily the HIV virus goes through condoms. We were also told that condoms are effective less than 70 percent of the time (which led the kids to say "If they're that ineffective, why bother using them?). Of course, we got to look at pictures of diseased vaginas and penises.
In 8th grade health, it was more of the same, but on an even more fanatical level. We were told that masturbation would make us sterile (male OR female), that birth control caused both sterility and cancers, and that even "heavy petting" could cause pregnancy. Apparently sperm is tricky and finds its way into vaginas once it is ejaculated. We were taught nothing of homosexuality (not that it was sinful or evil or fine and dandy)- it flat-out wasn't even brought up. At the end of that curriculum in the health class, we were each coerced into signing an "abstinence pledge" and shamed if we refused to sign it. Afterward, we were each given a small mirror in a red, plastic sleeve with some ridiculous slogan on it, like "Look at yourself and remember your promise." Kids used those mirrors to do coke. So I guess it was a win-win for public education.
Shawn Murillo, 35: "I was disciplined countless times for sharing accurate information about sex"
Utah was abstinence only. I was disciplined countless times for sharing accurate information about sex and anything related to sex, like diseases, contraception, or the kind of activities not directly contributing to conceiving a child. I can't remember how many times I was suspended for providing sex ed. The one expulsion which was nearly permanent actually prompted a public meeting concerning me and the information I had shared. I was taking mechanical drawing as a freshman and was seated near a senior on the football team. I was sexually active at the time and somehow this football player had learned about it. His question: "How to girls get pregnant?"
Then I had to explain it, all of it, to the entire team. Nearly all of them were having sex and not only did they not know how to make a baby, they had no idea what the names of their private parts were. I told them about condoms and that I would show them how to use them. I got an entire case of condoms from Planned Parenthood for free. I showed these guys how they worked and then distributed the remaining condoms throughout the school. I was expelled for it and the enraged parents called for a meeting with the school to voice their displeasure. The most memorable of these parents was a 50-year-old woman who was absolutely positive I had corrupted her son with this information. How did she know? She knew I had perverted her cretin son because she knew for a fact he was totally ignorant to sex. "He used the word penis to describe his privates and I know for a fact he never knew this... word.. before," she said.
My mother feels she made the right decision by educating her kids about sex because my sister and I are the only members of both sides of our families to make it out of high school without children.

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