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The Queer Factor: Why Comprehensive Sex Education Matters

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September 18, 2012

When I began questioning my sexuality in my teens, I didn’t know how sex between two women “worked.” I felt a lump rise in my throat when I tried to talk to a pretty girl. My face flushed. The hairs on my arms stood on end. But aside from these physical indicators, I was clueless. As far as I knew, lesbians had sex via osmosis or hand holding.

My sex ed class wasn’t of much assistance. The small Georgia school system in which I was enrolled followed an abstinence-plus curriculum. Any acts of intimacy referenced in our thin textbooks were of the standard (some might even say boring) penis-in-vagina variety.

I eventually learned what constituted queer sex through an awkward independent study course. With the assistance of t.A.T.u.’s infamous “All The Things She Said” music video, copious google searches, and sneakily watching episodes of The L Word after dark, everything fell into place.

While this makes for a funny story now, I was privileged to have a wide array of resources at my disposal. Even if my sex ed teacher blew, I still figured out shit on my own time. This is not the case for everyone. Often, a public school classroom is one’s main medium for knowledge, especially when it comes to human sexuality.

If you aren’t being properly educated on the sex that you want to have, then you aren’t being educated on the pleasures, safety precautions, even the or consent issues that come with having it. This is the ultimate downfall of abstinence-heavy curricula. The emphasis on sexual abstention is not immoral. However, the blatant dismissal of statistics surrounding STDs/STIs, teen pregnancies, abuse among teen couples and the refusal to arm young adults with the resources needed to combat these issues most certainly is. If you cannot acknowledge a manner of having sex in a classroom, then you cannot acknowledge the risks that come with that kind of sexual activity, either.

Comprehensive sex education not only raises awareness about our own bodies, but encourages respect for those which may be different. By basing its curriculum around cisgender male and cisgender female relationships, abstinence sex education isolates everyone who doesn’t fit into one of those tidy, socially-constructed boxes. Students are essentially taught to either blatantly ignore or detest those who deviate from this norm.

It’s silly. There are more than the two sexes that we insist upon working within. There is more than one sexuality. And Lord knows that there is more than one gender. We appreciate diversity in virtually every other subject, from recessive and dominant genes in biology to who knows; we might even be able to learn something from one another in the process. In a recent Jezebel article, Chloe S. Angyal begged the question: Why can’t Americans be more like the French when it comes to oral sex? Would our sex lives be more fulfilling if we stopped basing them off of this grandiose reproductive act and began basing them off of responsible, consensual pleasure? As someone who does not have heterosexual sex, the answer is obvious.

When someone asks me that infamous inquiry — How do lesbians do it? — I do not find it obnoxious. On the contrary: I find it refreshing. After all, it wasn’t very long ago that I didn’t even have an answer to that same question.

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2 Responses to “The Queer Factor: Why Comprehensive Sex Education Matters”

  1. Andrew

    So well said Sarah! When I first came out in college I was so confused about my sexuality. I knew I wanted to be with guys, but I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do, let alone how to make sure I was doing it safely.

    The lack of comprehensive sex education in school really hurts LGBTQ youth and I so appreciate you making the connection!