I can remember back in the day when we were supposed to be learning about sex education in school. It was probably one of the most stressful years of mine and my classmates’ lives. We didn’t want to see or hear about what our body parts were supposed to turn out like once we hit puberty, let alone what boys body parts looked like. I think the most horrific part of the class was when the instructor whipped out a banana and nonchalantly slid a condom on it. Back then, and just prior to reading Cara Kulwicki’s piece, I never actually considered sex education to have any concerns other than how traumatizing putting condoms on bananas at twelve years old was. However, after reading her chapter in Yes Means Yes, I’ve come to find that she points out some very troubling issues that sex education has.
When it comes to looking at the girl’s side of sex, Cara points out that the information provided is pretty vague. It’s almost as if the course’s purpose is to make the students feel like sex should only be practiced when conception is the desired outcome. Not only that, but these courses only discuss what happens when two heterosexual people participate in vaginal intercourse. They give no description of anal or oral sex for the students in the class that may be homosexual or not interested in vaginal sex. This could have a sort of shaming effect on students because if you aren’t educated about it and your teacher doesn’t talk about it then it can imply that you shouldn’t be doing it. It also leaves girls unaware of their pleasure points. What is mainly talked about is penetration, and how a man orgasms (because that is how babies are born and that is the only reason why you should be having sex, right?). Students are so misguided by the briefness of these courses that girls don’t know that they can enjoy sex too and gays and lesbians can participate in sex just like heterosexuals can. To quote Cara on this point, she states that:
“For me, real sex education… requires actually teaching about sex. Real sex education requires, in addition to teaching about protection, teaching sex as a normal and healthy part of life that is varied in terms of both preferred partners and preferred acts. Real sex education teaches that sex is more than heterosexual intercourse and should be consensual and pleasurable for all participants.”
In addition to learning about all different types of sex, Cara Kulwicki brings up another good point that sex education disregards as a huge factor when it comes to sex — rape. When I think of rape, I think of violent, aggressive and forced sex. In this chapter though, it’s come to my attention that even not giving enthusiastic consent falls under the category of rape. The author points out that even when one partner does not fully want sex but after saying no several times and still being nagged to do it and they oblige, is still considered rape. I think that many people would be shocked to realize that they’ve either acted out the crime or been a victim of rape without even being aware of it. That’s another reason, as Cara points out in this chapter, that rape needs to be another key component in the curriculum of sex education. Students need to know that sex has to be wanted by both partners for it to be okay, otherwise it is wrong.
Cara caps off this piece of writing by explaining that sex education should be about teaching young adults that pleasure and consent are important and necessary for any relationship and that nobody, whether, gay, lesbian, or straight, should feel ashamed about wanting to feel pleasure through sexual acts. It’s completely normal and healthy as long as it is acted out safely through protection. She also states that, “…there is more to sex than sticking penises inside of vaginas.” There are a variety of different ways in which partners or individuals can go about feeling sexual pleasure. Real sex education should teach these practices and stress the importance of enthusiastic consent, protection and smart choices to all the teens confused about where to stick what, what to stick where and how to touch that.
– Kelsey Gray