It's interesting to hear from people when and how they first heard of sex/learned what it was!
For example, I actually read the definition of "sexual intercourse" in my dad's cyclopedic medical dictionary when I was in elementary school. Even then, though, I hadn't conceived (heh) the notion that pregnancy can occur when a man ejaculates inside a woman's vagina- I didn't realize that penises were capable of penetrating vaginas for an embarrassingly long time. Evidently, my parents weren't very good about informing me on these matters.
Also, how do you think that influences the way you view sex now, if at all? Did you form misconceptions based on how you first learned about sex? Do you feel like it affects your feelings about sex today?
On a similar topic, do you feel satisfied with the amount of sex ed. you received (if at all) growing up, whether it derived from your parents or schools?
I'll be honest: I asked my mom how babies were made when I was five or six, and my aunt was pregnant with my youngest cousin. She did tell me about what sex was and the general gist of how it worked in terms of needing both a penis and a vagina, though she was a little fuzzy on sperm and eggs and such. I suspect that was because I probably looked a little horrified.
I don't really know that that has/had an influence on how I now think about sex, other than that my mom didn't really make a big deal (if she even mentioned it at all--I don't think she did) of it being an act ordained by God for procreation only despite my Catholic upbringing, though she did say that it was for people who were in a long-lasting relationship, or, at least, I formed that impression.
My mom was definitely the best source I had on sex ed. She got her period at a very young age, and at a time when such things just weren't talked about, so she decided that any girl she had would know the facts of life well before she needed to. I knew I could always (and still can, even in my early 20s) go to her with questions. Sex ed in school was... rather more disappointing. First, a lot of it was highly encouraging of abstinence, which is unsurprising since I was at Catholic school through high school. High school was, in fact, a bit better about talking about contraception and STDs... and all of the negative stuff that could come out of sex before marriage.
I had a lot of friends who had various misconceptions through high school, and it always worried me. I didn't want to sound like a know-it-all, but I wanted to set them straight. (One of my friends is still convinced that her experiences are universal, and is usually surprised if I tell her something different.)
It wasn't until college that I really got anything sex-positive, and that's only because my boyfriend and I decided to attend a sexpert panel put on during the first week of school one year. It was there that I got the "it's okay to experiment/not want to do something/ask for something that you want" spiel, as well as how to be safe and how you should at least respect and trust your partner, even if you're just having a one night stand. (Not something I ever wanted to participate in, but it was good to hear, and did actually probably make me a little less judgy.) That was probably the most satisfying sex ed that I got, followed by my mom's willing and open approach, and then, a little bit more down the way, Catholic school. (I did get important stuff from that, but it just wasn't sex-positive.)
My parents first taught me the basic mechanics of sex and reproduction at such a young age that I don't remember that first converstion. Sex (well PIV this is how we make babies sex) is always something I've known about. My parents were always very sex positive and told me that sex is a beautiful thing. (That doesn't stop it from being icky thinking about them having sex). I think that part of what helps with that is that my parents have a truly happy and balanced relationship. They are as in love as ever and have what I assume to be a very happy sex life (paper-thin walls oh joy!). It only makes sense that people having good sex are going to teach their kids good things about sex. My parents have never sat my sister and I down for one big talk about sex. It's generally just an ongoing discourse that isn't usually uncomfortable or awkward. My parents gave me the best ongoing sex ed I've gotten and have laid a good foundation for me to have a healthy view of sex, but there are certain areas where the education I got from them was clearly lacking (more on that later).
Here in Canada, we have government-mandated sex ed with a curriculum just like you'd have for any other subject. This has most certainly contributed to the quality of education that I have received on this in school. The information that I received in sex ed in school was almost always delivered before I needed it. I don't remember learning the mechanics of sex in school, but my sister does so I know it was part of the curriculum. I just never considered it a big deal when I was younger, since I had known about it for as long as I could remember. What I do remember learning about a lot was puberty, periods and bodily changes. We also learned about many, many types of birth control and about stis and stds. It got to the point where I was sick and tired of hearing about it because I already knew all of it (which is awesome, it drilled important things into my head). In grade eight (and some other grades) the health nurse from the health unit actually came in and showed us all sorts of contraceptives and such (even the female condom which I thought was pretty weird at the time). Ultimately school got me pretty well versed in some basic facts and figures. But like the education I received from my parents there were still things that were missing. (Now, though, my province has a new Premier who is pushing to get updated sex ed into schools; if the opponents of that don't win then hopefully students will get more applicable sex ed).
In high school, the last time I had sex ed was when I took grade nine gym class (haven't taken it since then). My teacher, Ms D was absolutely awesome. She was candid and frank and taught me that sex was something that could apply to me, not just to adults and others. Ms D taught me that the clitoris exists and that it is possble for women to masturbate. When I bold student asked if she thought women should masturbate (my grade nne gym class was the only time I'd ever had sex segregated sex ed) she said that if you don't know what you like and what works for you, then you can't know what will work when you're with a partner and that it is important to get to know your own body. I was absolutely shocked at my teacher's candidness: not only was she talking about masturbation (which at that time I thought immoral) she was saying it was a good thing that people should try if they wanted to! Ms D's class is the reason I began masturbating and the reason that I feel a sexuality is something I can have!
The big thing that all of this sex ed was lacking in was queerness! I did not hear ANYTHING about being queer in terms of sex, relationships or anything. All I heard were the stereotypes and not even these were delivered in an official manner.
I am ME and that is the only label I need. Posts: 864 | From: Ontario, Canada | Registered: Oct 2009
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You know, this is a good question, and I'm not exactly sure when my awareness began. I was a very advanced reader growing up, so when I was 10-11 I started reading adult novels (not specifically the "sexually explicit" definition of adult, just things that sometimes had sexual content) because I got bored of kids' stuff. I quickly became aware that what I was reading had to do with sex but didn't really understand all of the mechanics of it.
Also, my best friend was involved in a very scary and sad statutory rape situation with several terrible older teenagers for several months around that same time (I was 10, she had just turned 11), and even though I didn't understand all of what was happening I started to be aware of sex from what she told me. Which... is pretty terrible to think about now, that this is where I learned a lot about sex. I do think that even though I understood (eventually; it was a complicated situation) that it was a bad situation it did take me a while to have a sense of non-coercive and non-exploitative sexuality and what that can look like. It didn't help that a lot of the sex in the aforementioned books I was reading was pretty messed up; I used to be into a lot of thriller-type novels and they tend to have a lot of rapey sex and predator characters.
In terms of school-based sex ed, my experience was pretty useless! We got what was basically a puberty primer in 5th grade - they separated boys and girls and the girls learned about menstruation and got free pantyliners, deodorant, and lots of pamphlets from Kotex. That was about it. In 7th and 9th grades I had a sexual health unit in a larger health & wellness curriculum, but all I remember learning was a list of STI symptoms and the threat that sex would cause DISEASE and PREGNANCY and was a BAD IDEA. But I didn't get a lot of real information other than that.
What was very positive, for the most part, was a sexuality program my church youth group did twice when I was in high school. This was a Presbyterian church but what my youth leader talked about wasn't exactly church-approved. I am no longer religious but still am really thankful for that experience. We learned about various contraceptive/safe sex methods, talking about setting limits and how to discuss and enforce them with partners, and things like masturbation and queerness. That was the only real exposure to healthy comprehensive sex ed I had until I got to college and found information from ST and other sources online.
Posts: 1352 | From: San Francisco | Registered: Jan 2013
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I learned about the mechanics of reproductive sex when I was probably about four, because I wanted to know basically everything about how human bodies worked and asked lots of questions. My parents answered me when they could and got me a couple of designed-for-kids books on human anatomy so I could learn more detail about the names of different bones and organs and whatnot. It wasn't until the sort of "intro to puberty" talk that happened when I was in fourth grade that I realized not everyone knew how reproduction worked, which really freaked me out. I had no idea people were unaware or that it was some kind of weirdly awkward and taboo knowledge.
I learned about non-reproductive sex a bit later on, around late elementary and early middle school, through a really nice book my dad gave me called "It's a Girl Thing." He wanted to help me with the awkwardness of puberty but knew he wouldn't be my primary resource person on the subject, so he just found me a cool book on health, sexuality, and relationships and left it at that. The book wasn't intensely detailed, but it covered topics like oral/manual/anal sex, STIs, abuse and unhealthy relationships, and the variety of orientations folks can have. I don't really identify as a girl at this point in my life, but it was a great book to have growing up.
I learned more about trans* identities and the even wider spectrum of sex practices (stuff involving sex toys, BDSM, and whatnot, as well as sex with/between folks with non-normative bodies or gender identities) in high school, largely through the Internet, and then later through my own personal experiences and discussions with friends. I also worked as a health clinic volunteer in high school, which taught me a lot more about STIs and safer sex practices. I suppose learning about sex has been a very multi-step process for me, as my awareness of what sex can even entail has shifted and expanded with time.
Posts: 62 | From: California | Registered: Jun 2012
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I think all of the above comments are really interesting and I can relate to many of them. My dad had given me a book about a couple and the process of them having a baby which was more helpful than the sex ed I received in school. I did not particularly find sex ed in elementary, middle, and high school helpful. Sex was not a priority at that time. I didn't understand it because I did not engage in it until college. At college I had to learn about it through bad experiences. In sex ed, we were never taught about the "social consequences" that exist for so many young women like me. I was so naive when I had my first sexual experience. I had not known that sex could be way to control someone or a way to hurt someone--this had never crossed my mind until it actually happened to me. I personally think that they should have classes at college about sex that students have the option to take...because now I'm sure sex applies to many people at my age.
Posts: 1 | From: Detroit | Registered: Jan 2013
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