Having been taught in religious schools for most of my life, I’ve never actually been on the receiving end of a sex education lesson. Not only is this worrisome, as I’m nearly 17 years old, it’s also eye-opening. Sex is taboo within Catholicism. The hush hush culture of it all has had significant backlash and yet there continues to be an uncomfortable, grimacing silence on it. This leads me to the question: How how does one we openly discuss sex without wanting to shrivel up into a ball of inflamed embarrassment?
Since abstinence has proven to not work, (when has denying a teenager something ever meant do it?) the first steps would be to talk about contraception. I never got even so much as a talk about condoms – how to use them, where to get them. Thank god for the Internet. But perhaps that’s where the issue stems from. With so much information available to everyone, at all ages and, at all times, people (adults) have begun to think that sharing this information is redundant. Well, I -and the 31% of young people who struggle naming 4 STIs- can assure you that’s not the case. As a young boy researching sex and finding anal bleaching and buttplugs, the Internet only led me down a more confusion-inducing phallic-shaped rabbit hole. I’m pretty sure my parents were relying on the National Curriculum or the bravery of a fifteen-year-old with a concerning search history to ask them. Neither worked in their favour. Hence, the aforementioned Internet.
But is it possible to learn too much too fast? With no one controlling my information intake, I quickly became aware of lube, slut-shaming, polyamory, STDs, the spectrum of gender and sexuality, and a whole load of other sex+ related topics. Of course I’m still learning today, (just recently I found out about full-body orgasms), but the more I find out the more eager I am to learn. There was an odd epiphany moment when I realised I needed to learn more about LGBTQ+ stuff and safe sex… which led me back into a 180 degree spin to the Internet, since that was my only real source.
I’m not discrediting the Internet as a good tool for learning, after all I owe it my full pseudo-sex education to this day. What people like me need isn’t just a crash course on safe sex (although that would be appreciated), it’s wider conversation about where sex fits into our culture and the, stigma that surrounds it. In the UK alone, 86% of the population find premarital sex acceptable, but the standard of education is not meeting this changed norm. In the age of so much over-saturation of social media narcissism with perfect bodies and nude selfies, somehow sex ed. and health education in schools is still being protested against. Here’s to the importance of better sex, safer sex and (in mine and many other LGBTQ+ people’s cases) queerer sex
education where we can talk about these matters and not be forced to feel shameful. After all, knowledge is power and I’d much rather know about something beforehand than have to find my way along down the road. *cough cough douching*