Oliver dropping truthbombs and calling bullshit on sex ed programs

This is one of the smartest things I’ve ever seen on TV (er, youtube).  I feel very strongly about a comprehensive, medically-accurate sex education for teenagers.  I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum: I got a decent sex education in high school, but I also received abstinence-only sex education through my church and the single-sex summer camp I attended every year.

There was good information in school about how to use a condom correctly, but I won’t call the program “excellent” because, as I’ve bitched before, there really wasn’t any information about the clitoris.  Also, it only occurred to me watching this show how crucial the topic of “consent” is to sex education; a good high-school sex education provides a tremendous opportunity to reach (particularly male) teens during their formative sexual experiences and help shape their views on sex to be accurate, healthy, and non-exploitative.

My public-school sex education didn’t make me want to have sex–I was planning on waiting until I was married to have sex (although I had had non-consensual oral sex when I was 12, so one of the loonytoons John Oliver cited would consider me a non-virgin who was already used up and losing her ability to bond by the time I finished 7th grade), and my parents were strict/controlling/scary enough that it would have been very difficult for me to even get away with having sex.  I did, however, find the presentations interesting and compelling.

However, even though I planned to wait until I was married, I never REALLY embraced the latter.  I think waiting was the path of least resistance, and my limited experience with sex up through high school wasn’t particularly positive, so I wasn’t all that tempted to rebel.  I remember giggling to myself at the naivete or a fellow camper when she asked why sometimes pictures or seeing people in movies kissing made her feel like she had to go to the bathroom, because I had had my first orgasm long before and knew what it was. I also remember not really buying it when the married counselor said sex is better when you wait until you’re married, and it just gets better and better.

There is one thing that comes out of abstinence education with which I do agree: I think that oral sex is just as much sex as intercourse.  I think straight men have almost consciously made it into “not really sex” in order to increase their access to sex without a condom, because getting a blowjob involves minimal risk of getting an STD–to the guy receiving it, anyway.

I remember having a conversation with a friend who had a similar, southern fundamentalist upbringing, about what a crock the whole “virginity” thing is.  I think it’s okay to treat losing your virginity as a major milestone, because it marks the beginning of what is a hopefully a lifetime of sexual activity.  I believe that formative sexual experiences–which don’t necessarily have to be intercourse–do shape one’s sexual habits and tendencies.  However, I don’t think sex becomes any less special later on–even as one accrues partners–unless it’s a compulsion/addiction.

I don’t even know where to start with regards to the sexism in sex education.  (I’m talking as a middle-class, mostly-heterosexual woman.  At least we are taught in abstinence-only education that it’s okay for us to have sex eventually.  I don’t even want to get into the special kind of damage it does to people who aren’t straight as if I have some kind of authority).  Here are my thoughts:

-Birth control is always going to be slightly more of a burden for a woman, because we’re the ones who get pregnant.  We’re also more likely to get an STD from a man than we are to give one.  Having said that, even the assholes I’ve encountered are generally responsible and assertive about using condoms.

-Let’s be honest: virginity is more of a “thing” for women then it is for a man.  For a man, it’s merely a rite of passage…and probably barely that now, since so many young men are getting blowjobs early on.  I still think it’s a change in status for a young woman.  Maybe that’s because a young woman is likely to have given a number of blowjobs–which offer virtually no chance of orgasm to the giver–before she’s had intercourse.  I want to be clear that I don’t have any stats on young men going down on women, but I have some strong suspicions (based on the aforementioned trend and my experience with manual stimulation (maybe 15ish guys have done it–only one was able to get me off that way) that a young woman’s first real chance of orgasm with a partner is through intercourse.

-I already said it, but it blows my mind that it only occurred to me watching this show how important it is to teach kids about consent, and what a tremendous opportunity for positive change is being blown by not offering every human a comprehensive sex education that teaches people how not to coerce someone else into sex.  Imagine young, straight men being taught how not to rape.  It sounds ridiculous, but then you see the clip of the Yale students chanting “No means yes / Yes means anal”–clearly this is something that’s not getting tacitly learned. Even a dumbass abstinence-only program could justify at least fucking touching the topic if they’d admit that rape is still possible within the context of marriage.

– The Yale clip REALLY upsets me.  Back in October, with the young music teacher…the sex was consensual, but I was drunk.  I didn’t consent to anal, and I wouldn’t have…and he just helped himself.  Was that rape?  I don’t feel raped, but I do think that what happened was wrong.  I think it’s outrageous that he didn’t ask.  I joke about it, because I’m most comfortable dealing with the situation by deriding him, but, although I didn’t experience any trauma from it, I think about it a lot.

– I wasn’t aware of how much sexism went into abstinence-only education when I was receiving it. I know the generation after mine has more access to information, and they’re encouraged much more to question and push back, but I’m not sure that that’s going to mean that a 12 year old girl is going to be able to process that kind of bullshit in the way that’s best for her.

– Overall, I think that young, straight men have a LOT to learn about sex.

-John Oliver handled the topic of sex ed directly, honestly, and with sensitivity.

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