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17th Apr 2018

A list of things sex ed never taught me about sex but definitely should have

Jade Hayden

sex ed ireland

Sex education did not prepare me for sex.

This is probably not a statement that’s specific to me or people that I know – in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody who went to school in Ireland who said that their sex ed taught them everything they needed to know.

Because it just didn’t. It wasn’t designed to.

I had two sex education classes growing up – one towards the end of primary school and the other when I was about 15.

Neither of them taught me anything I didn’t already know which, really, wasn’t a whole lot in general anyway.

A few weeks back, it was reported that new proposed legislation would aim to remove the religious ethos from sex ed in Irish schools.

A review of the current programme has already been announced, and this bill – if it passes – would ensure that the Catholic church has no say on what students are taught about sex.

While some are of the opinion that it shouldn’t be up to our schools to teach children about sex, if our schools insist on running sex ed classes they should at least be informative, non-judgemental, and actually worth attending.

So basically, not what most of us got.

Here’s a comprehensive list of things that I – and the rest of us, really – definitely should have been told about during sex ed that we weren’t.

1. How to put on a condom

Seriously, like.

In all my years of pre-adulthood sex ed classes, not one of them ever showed me how to put on a condom.

We talked about condoms, we talked about the necessity of condoms to prevent pregnancy and STIs, but not once did whoever was running these classes take one out and show us how to actually use it.

Friends I had in different schools told grim enough stories involving bananas and lube but we weren’t even graced with a bit of dodgy fruit.

2. Anything about abortion. Just anything. 

As far as my sex ed classes were concerned, abortion didn’t exist.

If you were having sex, you used a condom to prevent getting pregnant. And if you still got pregnant, congratulations you now had a baby.

Abortions were not spoken of which really wasn’t all that surprising considering I (like most people) attended Catholic run schools until the age of 17.

And although in the beginning I might have been too young to understand what a termination really meant, the knowledge that getting pregnant didn’t have to be a terrifying, life-ending experience would have been nice.

3. What consent meant

I didn’t hear the word ‘consent’ until I was about 15 and I probably didn’t know what it meant until a couple of years later.

Not once during my sex education, in primary or secondary school, did anybody ever tell me that it was OK to say ‘no.’

Sexual assault was something that happened to women who weren’t careful by men in dark alleys. It didn’t happen to people you knew and it definitely didn’t happen to you – as long as you looked after yourself, that was.

Sex was talked about in terms of wanting it but what about when you didn’t want it? What happened if you did want it and then decided to change your mind?

As far as I was concerned, you couldn’t.

4. Women masturbate 

Alright yeah, probably could have guessed this one, but when you’re 11-years-old and the only thing you’ve been told about the male body during puberty is that wet dreams are a thing and boys masturbate a lot, you could forgive a child for getting a bit confused.

I can’t remember exactly what age I was when I figured out that women masturbated too, but I do remember that nobody ever sat me down and told me, casually or otherwise.

Our attitudes towards female pleasure have changed an incredible amount since the naughties, but back then we didn’t talk about it.

There were those of us who were doing it and then there were those of us who weren’t, probably because we’d been taught to believe that it was as far from normal as you could get.

Girls didn’t masturbate. That was a boy thing.

5. Non-straight people have sex too, you know

As pre-teens we knew this, obviously – not as a fact though, but as something taboo.

There are plenty of glaringly obviously problems with sex ed courses in Ireland and elsewhere but one of the big issues is their focus on hetero couples.

How isolating it is for a child or a teenager unsure of their sexuality to sit in a room and be told: ‘This is how normal people have sex.’

Sure, women who have sex with men have a lot of things to learn, but so do women who have sex with women and men who have sex with men.

Issues of consent, STIs, and just a general lack of understanding affect everybody – no matter what their sexual orientation might be.

6. Sex doesn’t necessarily mean penetration

The (very) little I took away from my sex ed classes was that sex meant penis entered vagina until the male party ejaculated. That was it.

At a mere 11-years-old, I didn’t expect to be informed about the joys of foreplay and the multiple ways that female orgasm could be achieved, but as I teenager I expected more than narrow definitions of sex and pleasure.

At best, it would have been informative, educational, a way of normalising sexual experiences that weren’t just specific to me and people that I knew.

And at the least, it would have made sure we didn’t miss out of years of actual decent sexual experiences.

Yeah, that would’ve been nice.


Ireland,sex,sex ed