Have You Received Comprehensive Sex Education?
As a counselor I speak with many clients on the topics of sex, intimacy, sexual addictions, communication, and lifestyles. It amazes me how many adults I run across in my office who 1. don't know the names of the parts of their genitalia and 2. are not aware of their own bodily functions or their partner's. Thus, ultimately I am sought out to then counsel on these delicate and private topics. Now if you happen to find yourself in the group that has questions about sex or you lack confidence in your sexual knowledge, don't feel bad because you're not alone.
According to a study that collected data from 2011-2013 more than 80% of adolescents aged 15-19 were provided formal instruction on STI's, HIV, and AIDS or how to say no to sex. Conversely only 55% of young men and 60% of young women received formal education about birth control methods (Guttmacher.org, American Adolescents' Source of Sexual Health Information, December 2017). While these numbers aren't necessarily negative and reflect our efforts in an attempt to provide overall sexual health knowledge, where are the conversations happening pertaining to sex and love, LGBTQ individuals, sexual pleasure, and how to access sexual health related medical attention?
To answer that question, we just aren't having those conversations with our kids, adolescents, or adults! If you are an individual whose had a comprehensive sex education you are among the few. Although the implementation of comprehensive sexual education courses at the middle and high school levels have been broached repeatedly over decades, those efforts are often still met with fear and questions of enforcing 'unnecessary' information on youth. The ultimate fear from adults and parents is that kids and teens are susceptible to peer pressure, or that discovery of sexual pleasure will create sexual deviance ultimately affecting their health.
However, if no formal sex education is received those same adolescents grow up to become adults with sexual desires and a limited understanding of how their bodies or those of a partner's tick, limitations on understandings of what's normal sexually, and what is consensual and loving versus harmful. Questions I encounter in my office include: 'How do I know what turns me on, or is what turns me on appropriate or strange? Am I a bad person for enjoying this form of sexual pleasure? What are the names of my body parts and how do they work? Is it ok that I'm attracted to the same sex? How do I reach orgasm? I feel genital pain and I don't know what it is and no one will help me! Is this normal?'
So if you find yourself in this boat of sexual confusion what can you do? First, know that what you are experiencing is normal and that it's never too late to learn! Some education websites you can start with include Healthfinder.gov's "Sex Education" page that lists a variety of articles on the topics of discussing sex with your kids, how to find a health center, talking to women about reproductive health, and more. There's also the "Sexual and Reproductive Health Resources for Adolescents and Young Adults" page on Adolescenthealth.org , and lastly for LGBTQ individuals seeking sexual education check out The Trevor Project's "Sexual Health Resource" page that lists links to great reading materials and PDF's inclusive of sexual orientation and gender related topics.
Devin Pinkston is a local mental health counselor and Gender Therapist in Grand Junction Colorado. Call to schedule a consultation today at