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Here's What My Abstinence-Only Sex Ed Actually Taught Me

Like that when you have sex with someone, you're having sex with everyone they've ever had sex with.

My young adult sex education consisted of an abstinence-only curriculum at my Texas middle school in 2003.

It was held in a special unit of our 7th grade health class when I was 13. Parents had the option to pull their kids from that unit, but my parents wouldn't have. Besides, I was very emphatic about wanting to take that class so I could learn about sex.

I'm sure my school district and its teachers, parents, and administrators were doing the best they could within the Texas state laws, and still are. Maybe the curriculum, which is chosen by a council of mostly parents, is the best option that fits the laws. (FWIW, the county that my district primarily covers was one of the few in Texas that went blue in the 2016 presidential elections.)

I fully bought the abstinence-is-the-only-way message from ages 12 to about 15. I didn't ask many questions, because I assumed I was learning everything I needed to know. But now, 14 years later, it's painfully obvious that there were some glaring gaps in my sex education. These are some of the lessons that curriculum actually taught me β€” and what it didn't.

1. Abstinence is the only way to 100% protect yourself from pregnancy.

2. Condoms have an 18% "typical-use" failure rate.

3. A heterosexual, married family life is obviously what everyone wants.

4. Oral sex is sex.

5. How to say "NO" to sex.

6. When you have sex with someone, you're also having sex with everyone they've had sex with.

7. Don't worry, you can ~renew your virginity~ if you've had sex already but want to be abstinent again.

8. Getting pregnant in your teens will crush all your hopes and dreams.

9. Sex outside of marriage is emotionally traumatizing, so just don't do it.

And here are all the things my abstinence-only sex ed DIDN'T teach me:

That sex can be pleasurable and fun and light; it's okay if sometimes sex is not that great; that it's okay to not like sex; that masturbation is normal and fun; that the g-spot exists, even for people with penises; anything about the clitoris besides that it exists; anything about penises except their anatomical parts; how to actually use a condom so it's most effective; what your options are if you get pregnant; that you should consider what you want and enjoy sexually and how to communicate those desires to your partner during sex and not during sex; what most STIs are besides scary monsters that motivate abstinence; that some STIs can be curable; that wearing a condom can make a HUGE difference in STI prevention (and you should wear one even if you're on birth control); that dental dams exist; that sometimes you should use rubber gloves; anything about STI testing and how to get tested and what to expect (and that people with penises have stuff to know about getting tested, too); that hymens don't matter and that some people don't have one; that sexuality is complicated and can take time to discover; that gender isn't always binary; anything about any kind of sex that wasn't oral sex or heteronormative intercourse; what to know when you have sex for the first time; any real way to understand your emotions when you're having sex; what to expect when you go in to get an IUD; that other contraceptive methods besides condoms and the pill exist; how to ask for consent at all; what consent actually is and what consent definitely isn't; what you should say if you want to try something but don't want to ruin the mood; how bodies actually work during sex; LUBE ALL THE LUBE AND CONDOMS... and I'm sure so many other things that I will discover over time and wish I'd known from the beginning.

Special <3: Joe, who helped me remember even more, and confirmed what I remembered already; and to my parents, who were helpful when I finally did start asking questions.

Was your sex education abstinence-only? Did you have a better or worse experience than I did? What did your sex ed miss β€” or get right?