- 6 years ago
- Wedding: July 2013 - UK
I think this will vary a lot by location… I found that my education was very thorough in some ways and not so much in others.
What were you taught in school?
We were taught basic biology/ about the physical changes of adolescence from a very young age. We also discussed abortion in our RE lessons when we were about 11, and we had to debate the pros and cons. Sex education was not on the syllabus as such, but I watched a video of childbirth in biology class when I was about 11. Learning about human hormones and how hormonal birth control (as well as other drugs) work was part of my GCSE syllabus. We did get a single biology class discussing BC when I was about 15, where the very embarassed teacher discussed condoms, femidoms and the like, whilst all the boys laughed hysterically and kept asking if we could “do a practical”. That lesson was an “opt in” lesson… you had to get parental consent. All the rest was required. We were also never, ever taught about abstainence… I’m fairly sure that this is national policy, because statistically then teaching abstainence doesn’t work. I only know one person who planned to be a virgin until marriage…. she lost her virginity before all the rest of us, in the end, and has since had the highest number of sexual partners and disasterous relationships by far.
I think I’m right in saying that my school did do PSE classes as well, but I didn’t attend them because I took an extra academic class instead, because PSE didn’t count towards a GCSE. They are supposed to cover healthy emotional and physical relationships as part of the course, so I don’t know what I missed there.
What did your family tell you at home?
My family encouraged me to learn biology, and I was provided with supplementary educational textbooks in a variety of subjects. These included books on human development, growth and hormones, and also covered pregnancy and birth. However, they did not discuss sex with me really.
When I was in my mid to late teens, my father gave me some very good advice about dating and relationships: what to order or not order from a menu when on a date with a young man, and to always arrive exactly 5 minutes late (allow the young man time to get there, take off his coat, and calm down a little, he said. But don’t be later than 5 minutes late or he’ll think he’s been stood up!). He also taught me about game playing and human interactions. But nothing about sex per se… I think he assumed that the school would have taught me all of that. I still keep his advice in mind to this day.
When I was 17, my Mum (who is pretty unbalanced, to be fair) sat my brother and I down for “the talk”. We were practically crimson with embarassment, and we also really wanted to point out that we were a litle old for this. Although we were both still virgins at that age, we could very well not have been: that talk was years overdue. Anyway, she made it a big deal, and then she said :”OK, sex. So the thing about sex is this: just don’t have it until you get married.”
Having never heard the abstainance message before, except on American teenage comedies, we both assumed that she was joking and burst out laughing. I was amazed to find she was serious! She was quite offended, actually. The joke was on us when we told our father what she had just said though (our parents were divorced by then)… at first, he started laughing along with us, but then he said “that’s bloody hypocritical of her!” At this point, we then had the image of our parents having sex in our minds. That was not so amusing for us… so ultimately, the joke was on us!
What did you have to learn for yourself?
I was very shocked to find out some of the gaps in my education. For example, I knew next to nothing about foreplay, and had to pick a lot up from Sex and the City. I also had to learn about how antibiotics make the pill ineffective, which your GP doesn’t tell you. It is also not in the information you get with the pill, which I find shocking. Also, I was unaware of options like nexaplon and the POP until I was an adult. I thought it was a choice between the combined pill, condoms, and femidoms until I was well into my 20s. I didn’t even know that there were different brands of the pill.
On the other hand, because I had absorbed so much from biology and medical texts, I thought that it was totally normal to have a full STD screening every six months to a year if you were sexually active, to use both hormonal and barrier contraception at the same time (because I was taught that both have different primary purposes in preventing STDs/pregnancy) and that sort of thing. So in some ways, I suppose I was over-thorough!
I don’t know when I learned about Save-The-Date Cards and from whom, but I was always very aware, and had a fairly encyclopaedic knowledge. The kids used to tease each other at school by saying “X has syphilis!” and similar, even when they were really young, so I was always quite knowledgeable. I also think that AIDS was on our biology syllabus as an example of a modern epidemic?