Horror Show of STDs
Bar of soap with bubbles

My formal sexual education was so insufficient that it is somewhat amusing. The focus of my 7th grade health class (which, by the way, occurred well after some of my fellow students had become sexually active) was primarily on the HORROR show of STDs. We played a game in which we spit chewed up food into cups and passed the cups around the room, spitting into everyone’s cups, until the health teacher took possession of the cup told us that this would be the state of our bodies should we choose to have sex with multiple people before marriage. It was alarming and it didn’t make sense, but the novelty of discussing the differences between the male and female body remained infinitely more interesting than any class I had at the time. I recall the health teacher allowing us to ask anonymous questions about sex, which she answered honestly but with the “abstinence-only” caveat. I often wonder if this was her way of trying to side step the requirements of the NC curriculum and give us the answers that we needed.

At the same time, my mother was awkwardly side-stepping the topic of sex while teaching me about my changing body through a Mother/Daughter pre-puberty class at a local Women’s Resource Center. Any mention of sex was purely clinical and I recall her discouraging sex before marriage after a seriously PG rated “sex scene” in That 70’s Show. It’s strange to think about the tension between my mother and I when it comes to sex given our shared liberal views about women’s rights and sex education. In as many ways as she is socially liberal, I think she’s just a personally conservative woman. When I decided to start having sex in college and asked for birth control, she was gracious and supportive but clearly wanted to change the subject as soon as possible.