tl;dr: It took me a really long time to learn about sex.

Note: For context, I attended a private Catholic elementary/middle school, and public high school in Bellevue, WA (a suburb of Seattle, WA).

There probably isn't a single person out there who likes sex-Ed. Nonetheless, it's an incredibly important topic for obvious reasons. So, we may not have to like it, but like any chore we should do it and do it well. Well, even though I passed 2 sex-Ed classes, sex-Ed failed me.

I wasn't the most curious kid when it came to figuring out where babies come from. I thought babies came from when two people (who loved each other very much!) kissed. Other kids in my class around 3rd-4th grade were much more interested in figuring things out. I remember hearing the things my peers' older siblings would tell them and being in outright disbelief. Sort of the same feeling when someone tells you Santa isn't real. You just think to yourself, "Well I don't know what they're talking about, Santa brings me presents, so they must be stupid."

As you could imagine, when my Catholic K-8 sat me down in 5th grade for our first sex-Ed class, I was surprised by it all. It was a strange experience, because they split up the boys and girls into two separate classrooms for these sessions. We actually had our school principal teach the boys because he was a man and the two fifth grade teachers were women. In hindsight though, this fifth grade class really failed me in a lot of ways. We primarily talked about how men have sperm, and women have eggs, and went through the anatomy of the male and female reproductive organs. We talked about the journey the sperm makes to the egg. But I never learned about the act of sex, or why people do it, or that it is pleasurable. Now, I know this was because Catholics still don't really support pre-marital sex or contraception, and were largely in the abstinence camp.

After a class one day, I distinctly remember going home to my dad and asking for clarification about whether or not the penis does in fact go into the vagina while he was watching TV. He answered my question with a sort of metaphor that really only added to my confusion, when he said something like, "Think of the penis like a needle when you're getting a shot." And he left it there, and sensing the awkwardness, I just sat there still confused, silent on the floor as Hannity came back from commercial break.

My sophomore year of high school, we had our 10th grade health class (mandated by the state!). A semester long class, we spent probably about 50% of it learning about drugs (illegal of course), 25% on healthy lifestyle choices, and 25% on sex-Ed. I remember learning about various forms of contraception and their effectiveness. In hindsight, if this class was primarily meant as a means of educating teens on contraceptives to prevent teenage pregnancies, it probably should be done in the first semester of freshman year, because some of the 14-15 year olds are certainly sexually active at that point. But I'll call my representative later. One of the biggest gaps in my sex-Ed experience was menstruation. While I knew it existed, I never really realized the extent to which a period could really ruin the better part of a woman's week once a month. It wasn't until I started dating my girlfriend in college that I truly learned about how debilitating menstruation could be. (Of course I knew from TV and the internet, but never experienced it secondhand) And it wasn't until even later that I learned about tampons, and how they work. One evening, I was hanging out with two female friends who were gracious enough to help fill in the gaps in my knowledge. One even demonstrated a tampon in action, as she dunked it in a glass of water, and I watched it swell. I asked, "does that hurt?!" To which she chuckled and replied "no".

I've also come to learn about the some of the experiences my female friends have had taking Plan B, or getting an abortion, or getting an IUD inserted. All of which were awful, and frankly, makes me really thankful that I'm a man.

So to conclude, I would say there are many failures of education and American society based on my experiences. As follows, they are:

  • Catholic educators not giving the full story on sex-Ed. Also, leaving out contraceptives, coincidence? I think not!
  • Public high school sex-Ed mostly focusing on contraception, but not educating the boys about the experience(s) women have every month!
  • Fathers not feeling comfortable talking to their young children about sex.
  • Mothers (sorry mom, you're not off the hook) for not talking to their boys about what women go through, or feeling comfortable doing so.

All this said, none of this is meant to demonize anyone, but merely point out areas in which we (and I) can improve moving forward.

Zach Bellay published on

5 min, 850 words