Red Flags

My public school health education in northern Illinois explicitly taught abstinence. They used fear and shame to deter us from sex by showing us photos of STIs and bringing in speakers (some teachers at the school) who pledged abstinence until marriage. I felt that my body and my thoughts about my body were wrong. I thought masturbation was shameful and would feel guilty about doing it. This stopped me from asking or talking about sex. Most tragically, we did not learn about what healthy sexual and romantic relationships look like outside of a monogamous, heterosexual marriage. The relationships and experiences I had as a teenager and young adult were unhealthy and sometimes abusive and I feel like I could have recognized red flags if I had been taught what they looked like. I wish I was taught about consent and establishing boundaries. I wish I was taught that I could have autonomy over my body. Instead I engaged in behavior and sexual acts that I was not comfortable with and stayed in an abusive relationship for years because that’s what I thought was “normal” based on TV, movies, and my own parents relationship. This has done damage to my early relationships as well as my physical and mental development unnecessarily. It shouldn’t have taken me until I was 30 to learn what a healthy sex life is.