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What You Were Taught In Sex Education Vs. Reality: 13 Huge Differences

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I like to think of myself as a cool mom who will someday have that awkward supply of condoms for my son, along with many uncensored sex talks. Even when he insists that I shut the eff up. Because I know he will. But if the future of sex education is full of misinformation like all the sex education I had in both middle and high school, he'll need his over-sharing mom's sexpertise (You like that? I'll save that cringe-inducing word for him, too). Like when they taught (more like warned) us about all of the ways to get pregnant, which I'm pretty sure included the dangers of being in a hot tub with your partner, regardless of what you were doing with them.

But, like so many people across multiple generations who have experienced the same thing, I feel like so much of sex ed, instead of actually educating students, was about scare tactics that I left class feeling worried about doing so much as kissing. Which, I guess, was the point: to terrify us into abstinence. But I would much rather have my son get real, useful information about sex from the place where he expects it than to have him resort to the sort of unrealistic "knowledge" from porn and the internet. And the "abstinence pledges" and claims of "pregnancies resulting from dry humping" are sex "education" gems that are so far from substantial. In fact, they can be quite damaging.

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Remember that scene in Mean Girls when Coach Carr tells the sex ed class that they will positively get pregnant and die if they have any sex whatsoever? Sadly, that is the sort of painful memory I dredge up when I think about the sex ed I experienced as a kid. While 22 U.S. states, including the District of Columbia, allow and actually require schools to teach sex education of some sort, just 19 of those states have policies in effect that make sure sex education is accurate as far as the medical and scientific information offered.

Where does this leave those other states on "educating" kids? Yeah, I'm not really sure, but it just goes to show that sex ed today is still something that needs a lot of work. At least, according to the wonky things I learned in my classes, it is. Here's a fun* little summary of the differences between what I was taught in sex ed versus what I later learned the reality behind those "lessons" was:

*terrifying

Abstinence

Taught In Sex Ed:

Abstinence is the only way to go, despite any natural urges you might be having. If you have sex at all, you will definitely get pregnant and also die of some horrible disease.

Reality:

Teens and adults have sex. They just do. And there are a great many ways in which they can have sex without ending up pregnant or disease-ridden. In 2013, a reported one-third of high school students admitted to being sexually active. Throwing abstinence pamphlets at hormonal teenagers just isn't going to cut it.

Hot Tub Dangers

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Taught In Sex Ed:

Because of the warmth of the water, any ejaculated sperm will be kept warm enough to survive and very possibly swim to a girl's nether region. So, no heavy petting or even making out in hot tubs or else ~baby time~.

Reality:

How many high schoolers do you know who even have access to hot tubs? And even if sperm could survive in the hot water, they'd survive for a few minutes at best. So, no. Just...no.

Condoms

Taught In Sex Ed:

Condoms will almost always break, so there's no point, and without protection, there's no sex. Sorry. Condoms are merely a beautiful lie.

Reality:

There's a reason the condom industry is still thriving. People buy the things because they do not, in fact, have tons of tiny holes in each one, ready to trap our teenagers into parenthood. Condoms, when used correctly, are hella effective and we're lucky to have them. Go science!

STDs Are Imminent

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Taught In Sex Ed:

You will get an STD, even if you use condoms (which are, as we've already covered, no good at all). There's pretty much no way around them. Oh, and here are several slides of gonorrhea and genital warts.

Reality:

While yeah, OK, STDs are totally possible, I can honestly say that I have never had one. Might have something to do with those trusty condoms, eh? Regardless (and fair, condoms don't protect against all STDs), most STDs, even if you do get one, are highly treatable, and frankly, the stigma associated with them is arguably worse than the actual symptoms.

Giving Birth Is A Nightmare

Taught In Sex Ed:

Episiotomies are more common than you think, ladies. Oh look, the video cart was wheeled in, let's watch one!

Reality:

Having an episiotomy done while giving birth (which involves getting the skin between the vagina and anus cut) may have been common in, say, the '80s, but not too much anymore. They are actually now very rarely even recommended. Anyway, the point isn't even about this one particular part of birth: The fact is, a massive, overall fear of all things related to giving birth was pretty heavy-handed in my sex ed classes. It was like, "Don't have sex ever, because you'll for sure get knocked up, and dear god, there is nothing worse than pushing a baby out of your body." I'm not saying we should sugarcoat the very big deal that childbirth is, but making young women terrified of it doesn't exactly seem like a good way to accomplish anything except, like...making women afraid of something their bodies can totally do.

An Abstinence Pledge

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Taught In Sex Ed:

An abstinence pledge, signed by you and turned in, will totally keep you from having sex.

Reality:

Or, you know, it'll get you that passing grade and then it'll be a funny thing to laugh about while you're having sex with your boyfriend that night and then not knowing what questions to ask your doctor about it.

Putting A Condom On A Banana

Taught In Sex Ed:

In the case that we promote condoms, here, take this banana and practice. It's totally realistic.

Reality:

Yeah. Maybe if it was a peeled, sweaty banana, with little curly hairs at the base of it. I'm totally prepared for this.

Dry Humping

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Taught In Sex Ed:

Also known as "heavy petting," dry humping can cause enough of ejaculation to get you pregnant. This is probably the weirdest conversation you'll ever have in school. Or anywhere. No one wants to hear their volleyball coach talk about "petting."

Reality:

Maybe on Scrubs, but in the case of dry humping, there is no semen directly put inside the vagina. So I'm sorry for Zach Braff, but no. (You were supposed to be a show about doctors. I expected more from you, Scrubs.)

Consent

Taught In Sex Ed:

There is, scarily enough, little to nothing taught about consent when it comes to sex education. Mostly girls are just taught that if they get raped, it's their fault for not follow a rigid set of rules about where to go, when to go there, what to wear, and what to say.

Reality:

Teaching about the importance of consent is one of the first things that should be taught, when taking a sex ed class.

Masturbation Rules

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Taught In Sex Ed:

Too much masturbation will effectively dry you up. And also, it's wrong and dirty so maybe just don't.

Reality:

There are far too many sperm for even the randiest high school kid to "pump" them all away.

The Only Birth Control

Taught In Sex Ed:

The only birth control, other than abstinence, is the condom and even those rarely even work.

Reality:

Firstly, no. And also, the use of different birth control methods like the pill, patch, or even shot are highly under-mentioned in sex education.

Pregnancy Options

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Taught In Sex Ed:

Unfortunately, sex ed offers no real advice or options when it comes to what happens after a young woman finds herself pregnant. No talk about options. Nothing.

"But teacher, what happens if I get pregnant?"
"Well, don't have sex and you won't have to worry about it, will you?"

Reality:

Girls need to know early on what all of their options are, should they suddenly get pregnant. If Teen Mom has taught us anything, it's that there is pretty much nothing major being offered in school in the way of information about navigating teen pregnancy.

Having Sex, Period

Taught In Sex Ed:

Sex is bad, scary, awkward, and will either result in an STD, pregnancy, or "super" STD that we just learned about and is totally real.

Reality:

Sex shouldn't be feared by kids, or act as a scary thing to dread as they get older. Instead, sex education should be there to literally educate kids on all aspects of sex, sexual orientation, diseases, and the before, during, and after stages of pregnancy. You know, the important stuff. The real stuff. The stuff you would want your kid to know if they decided to have sex (which — spoiler alert — they really are eventually going to do).