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Oreos? Really?: My “sloppy seconds” sex ed experience

Photo by Domowe Wypieki

It started out innocently enough, with a girls-only presentation about periods in the fifth grade. On a super-secretive slip of paper, I asked the presenters, why do some pads have wings? And I got the first and only answer to an actual question I had about sexuality in my entire schooling. My boyfriend was not as lucky — at age 21, his best friend confided that, after years of puzzlement over pad commercials, he had finally figured out what the wings were for.

During this time, I had information about discharge (mostly the abnormal kind!) drilled into my brain — completely ruining the texture of cottage cheese for me — but my boyfriend didn’t even know what it was until I told him. He thought “discharge” was another word for period blood.

And so, I was prepared for the messy and unwanted physicalities of growing up, but not for much else. I was never told about the foreign feelings of arousal that would eventually sneak up on me during math class, confusing the hell out of me. Clearly, some things were normal bodily functions — and some were not to be discussed.

After that, sex ed quickly became patronizing. It began in middle school with the Spice Girls’ “2 Become 1.” As we listened to the glittery song on a boombox, we were asked to pick out all the instances of romanticized sex. So, every line of the song? Do we really have to raise our hands for every line? We do? Okay then.1

I also vaguely remember some bullshit about how holding hands can lead to sex…

But the big guns came out in high school: the STD slides, blown up onto the screen like a movie. Unlike the horrific drunk-driving car crash slideshow — which really did make me paranoid as fuck about seatbelts — the STD pictures just seemed like a gratuitous and rather undignified attempt at shocking us into submission. Obviously, we were not going to understand the gravity of STDs unless we saw them in super size.

Actually, that wasn’t enough. We needed Oreos.

At the front of the class, a woman chewed an Oreo, then swished some water in her mouth. She spit the water into a cup, then proceeded to pour little bits of it into other water-filled cups, and those cups into other cups. This is how STDs are spread, apparently. If you happened to get an STD, you were about as worthwhile as disgusting Oreo water. Were there ways to treat these STDs before spreading them? Who knows. All I remember is doom and gloom.

The underlying implication was that we, the kids, were really stupid. We will see STDs and recoil in horror. We will see Oreo water and recoil in horror. We will listen to the Spice Girls… and recoil in horror. But we were not stupid, and we weren’t originally scared. Tricking us into feeling scared just made us feel duped — and silenced.

I never got answers to the questions I really wanted to ask. What are the plus sides to having sex? What does sex actually feel like? How much does an abortion cost? Is it safe to masturbate using water from the bathtub faucet? What does it mean if I like porn? What if I like girls? (Nevermind that one — my answer came when students wrote “dike” next to my name on the wall and harassed me via instant messaging.)

As a result, I knew nothing.

When I dry-humped my boyfriend, I needed the internet to reassure me that I couldn’t get pregnant.

When I woke up in my dorm with the devastating urge to pee and inability to sleep, I thought I was dying.

When I found my G-spot and taught myself to squirt — possibly one of my most important sexual developments — it was because of my sex toy reviewing and nothing else. I am almost certain that if I had not become involved in sex toy reviewing, I would have lived my entire life without having ever squirted.

Sure, I have mostly recovered from the lack of information I received about sex in school, but I’m still pissed about it. I’m pissed that similar scare tactics happen to kids every day. I’m pissed that kids aren’t trusted with information that may very well be vital to their sexual health. And I’m pissed that this trend continues in 20-fucking-10.

I hate to think of what “romanticized sex” song they’re playing for kids as we speak…

This post is a part of the Scarleteen Sex-Ed Blog Carnival.

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  1. Convenient of them to ignore all the badass messages the Spice Girls put forth, like “if you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends.” Word.

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  1. I like that the subconscious claim that abstinence-only sex ed teaches is that once you’re married and monogamous, all your sexual questions and problems go away forever. Once that ring’s on your finger and you have magical, lights-out, clothes-on, foreplay-free, penetrative penis-in-vagina sex that lasts for 5 seconds, you magically know everything you’ve ever needed to know about sex, sexuality, gender, reproductive health, and sex in society.

    That must be why so many people get married and are completely sexually satisfied and content for the rest of their lives!

  2. I am so glad I had sex ed before the “abstinence-only” crap took hold. I might have stupidly had sex before I was ready if I’d been subjected to the kind of bullshit propaganda anti-education so many kids have had forced upon them since.

    Oreo water? I just don’t even.

  3. When I dry-humped my boyfriend, I needed the internet to reassure me that I couldn’t get pregnant.

    This is kinda similar to me feeling all panicky when there was an assembly to talk about STDs (or something like that, I don’t remember) and, since I had no idea what oral sex was, I thought I could get pregnant and/or an STD from cyber sex (srsly). It never occurred to me that people sometimes put their mouths on other people’s genitals, so I assumed that oral = talking.

    I thought to myself, “Wait, how is that even possible?” but then I was all “THEY ARE THE TEACHER AND THEY KNOW MORE THAN ME SO IT MUST BE TRUE!”

    Middle school was a very strange time, yo.

  4. It’s definitely sad how lacking or sex education system is today. We need to fight for comprehensive sex education in schools – it’s so important.

  5. I am so glad my sex ed class didn’t have a “STD exercise” like the Oreos, or, God forbid, an abstinence-promoting exercise like the “nothing sticks to a dirty piece of tape!” metaphor.

    But we definitely got the pictures, and Lordie, at least one is *still* seared into my memory. I didn’t get a lot of information that might be useful (that not everybody who has an STD experiences symptoms, or shows them right away, that men can be carriers of HPV, where and how and for how much one could get tested, etc.) . . . I just knew that I should steer clear of sex with the guy with so many crusted white sores on his genitals (a.k.a. “cauliflower dick” in my mind). And ya know, I’m quite sure we both would’ve figured that out on our own.

    Hell, even just this year, I think I was looking up the answer to someone’s question about an STD, clicked on a seemingly innocuous website, and was accosted by gruesome pictures- which led to an immediate click on the back button. Possibly valuable information ignored because of shocking images (not to mention usually of extreme cases) without warning or a cut.


  6. Okay I’m drawing a total blank on even having sex-ed class. As for having a period there was a video and the knowledge that you just had to sit on the toilet and it would be over with. NOT

    I now have an 11yo daughter that has already been to the HGD, Human Growth and Development (though it sounds like a disease to me) class. She learned that once you start your period is NEVER stops. Like you have it 24/7 for the rest of your life. I shudder to think of what sex-ed even consists of.

    We are trying to be as open as possible with her. She asks us anything she wants at this point. For me its almost painful to answer but I’d rather her know than not know.

  7. I just watched Easy A last night, so slut-shaming is even more on my mind than usual, but that Spice Girls video really jumps out at me…

    Okay, so it’s totally insipid (but who expects otherwise from the Spice Girls?), but what is striking to me is that it’s girls singing sweetly about wanting to have sex AS IF THEY KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS, which is really lacking in most popular music. The normal choice is between virginal Taylor Swift or raunchy Lady Gaga (who I love, btw). But the emotional state described in the Spice Girls song SHOULD BE what these classes are trying to instill, instead of discourage! Argh!

  8. I’m so glad I have been talking to my girl since she was 3 – no matter how much it made me squirm or twitch. When we walked in on her masturbating, we didn’t flinch, just said “That’s just for you in private and wash your hands when you’re done.” She’s 10 now and asks me about everything she hears in school – she knows that nothing is off limits. I take every opportunity possible to “educate” her when something saucy comes up. She is versed in everything from condoms to strippers. With her teen years approaching I am so glad she is going in armed ‘cuz it sure sounds like the shit they try to pass off as sex ed is a miserable failure. Parents who bring their own hang ups, insecurities and misconceptions to the table are doing a terrible injustice to their kids – it’s not always easy but, hey, that’s why we’re the grown ups. Being open with your child is a tremedous gift to them, the earlier you start, the better.

  9. WTF? Your sex ed experience is something I would never ever wish on anyone. Sex should be discussed seriously with the health educator teaching the course. Sex is also to be treated with respect and, yes, caution. It should NOT be treated with such disrespect and making young adolescents fear and abhor it BEFORE they even have sex.

    This seriously makes me glad I went to public school, where they taught us that sex can be good and should be done safely, if at all. Also had very good presentation on STDs and all the variables, not just extreme cases (she gave presentation on al STDs, from their initial stage to extreme stage, if untreated and to not be afraid to tell our doctors if something didn’t look right). Of course, my school had to teach us how to use condoms and such since my fellow students were more prone to get preggers at an early age AND I live in a very liberal county, let alone state (MD).

    My mother was a Catholic school girl (grew up in MD) and SHE was the one to sit me down and teach and tell me about sex, at home. She was open and even more brutally honest than my sex ed instructor about sex, STDs, kissing, periods, etc.

    Your instructor was a jerk and an idiot.

    Thankfully, you had the internet to help you figure all of that out, but your instructor failed miserably.

    Also, Oreo water–WTF?

  10. Catholic school, so I got the STD slides in the sixth grade. That was the whole of my sex education, K-8th grade. Public high school? Nothingness.

    My parents, thankfully, despite their faith, were more open at home about sex education. After a brief discussion involving what-goes-where-and-why, they invited me to ask questions. Aside from that, I pretty much educated myself via books. XD

  11. This sounds pretty much like a carbon copy of my experience except that my Health teacher used food coloring and water to show the contamination/spread of STD’s. I remember thinking ‘giving head’ was the same as sex and being shocked that one of my friends had done ‘THAT’ until someone clued me in. At which point I just felt dumb. Oral sex was sooo not covered in Sex Ed.

  12. Reminds me of the time I went to a dance with a Mormon boy.

    Before the dance we had to sit through a “presentation.”

    It started with a man putting a large powdered donut in a paper bag – after getting us to agree it looked rather tasty. He then passed the bag around the room with the instructions “You can do anything you want to this donut but take it out of the bag.” Of course after 50 or so teenagers mauled the donut the not-so-shocking message was (and I’ll never forget this)
    “Who wants to eat this donut now? No one. It’s so disgusting and it’s been TOUCHED by so many people.”

    Most sex ed in this area is taught in church. Most churches in this area are southern baptist. Thankfully my mother was a nurse who taught me pretty well.

  13. I went through sex ed in public school in Michigan, at age 13, in 1977. A ten minute, 1946 Disney film on menstruation comprised my entire sex ed experience, and.I’d already had my period for 2 years, not that the film would’ve reassured me had it been more timely. They separated the boys from the girls, and I heard that the boys learned about wet dreams, which sounded way more exciting than the pedantic, 30 year old movie about periods we got to see. What really stood out for me were the period myths, which both the film and associated booklet promised to “explode.” (Bear in mind that youtube cannot properly replicate the scratched film and warbly audio we were privy to in 1977. If you can’t bear to waste 10 minutes of your life, skip ahead to 4:50) The film assured us that bathing or even showering during our periods was definitely fine, as long as we took care not to use water that was either too hot or too cold. As the delayed animation of the girl showering phased from splattering her with scorching steam to ice cubes, the narrator helpfully adds “In fact, it’s not a good idea to shock your system to extremes at any time.” This is the part I remembered most vividly. I also remember feeling profoundly let down that while our sex education program could splurge on this 10 minutes of this excitement, they didn’t have copies of the booklet “Personally yours.” No Oreos or unloved donuts for us.

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