IWHC asked this question to a bunch of sexual and reproductive rights advocates and colleagues. Check out their answers below.
In my sex ed class my teacher handed out diagrams outlining the male and female anatomy. The handout on female anatomy was missing what I felt was incredibly important: the clitoris. When I took it upon myself to add the clitoris to my handout and the handouts of those around me, I was kicked out of class. Another teaching moment was when we watched “The Miracle of Life.” My teacher fast-forwarded through the birth so we wouldn’t “have to look at” a woman giving birth. Needless to say, the clip we did get to watch of the baby in the doctor’s arms was far from educational. The lesson learned was that the vagina and the vulva are not only eye-sores but intended only for birth, not pleasure.
Ruby Aliment, Washington, USA
In Mexico, biology is the “sex ed”… so I learned about male/female body parts but that was about it. There was one book that a teacher in 3rd grade shared with us where we thought that babies came from parents kissing and then a bird looking at them and delivering a baby on their doorstep!
Besides that, middle school in a Catholic Girls School: masturbation and homosexuality were the work of the devil, that God only intended sex to be for reproduction, that abortion and contraceptives were going against God’s will.
Alex Garita, Mexico
My experience with sex education was actually incredibly positive. In the seventh grade, our health teacher showed us slides of STIs on human genitals, and spoke QUITE frankly about the realities of sex. It was very much with the tone “if you have sex without a condom, you will die,” which isn’t great. But I think overall, his intention was to be honest with us about why its important to make healthy choices. We were never lied to or preached abstinence-only rhetoric. I wonder if my middle school is still handling it the same way….. doubtful.
Blythe Newburg, Wisconsin
Well, my only SexEd classes were in what is called like “Secondary School” in Italy, around the age of 12 I think. There were a couple of videos and a couple of classes, all in all not more than 4 hrs I think.
The classes were given by our Science teacher, with the presence of a nun, as I was in Catholic school run by nuns. Well, it was basically some basics around the reproductive system, you can clearly forget anything about sex itself or condoms or any kind of HIV related issue or prevention. The basics around the reproductive systems were such, however, that no representation of a penis was ever present anywhere and it was kind of unclear how the semen could get from the penis to the vagina (possibly jumping?).
I remember though that the teacher said that contraceptive pills did not cause infertility as some said, but they might cause cancer.
Lucina Di Meco, Italy