I’m not sure what your High School sex ed was like, but mine seemed to have been inspired by Hobbes: nasty, brutish and short. Over in two seventy-five minutes periods; we discussed childbirth in one and STI’s in the other. What it lacked was some key information that I had to go out and learn for myself. If I got a chance to rewrite the curriculum (or at least add another seventy-five minutes!) I would definitely add in these lessons:
Calculating the Risk/Reward Ratio of Potential Partners
When we think about sex and safety STI’s and unwanted pregnancy come to mind, but don’t forget heartbreak, physical safety, performance anxiety, emotional turbulence – the list goes on. And the rewards? Pleasure, connection, increased intimacy, learning, ecstasy. Now for the kicker: we don’t automatically know which risks and rewards are present; it might be all the risk with zero reward, one or two risks with lots of rewards, or any combination in between. Learning to spot these so we can make the best, and likely safest, choices for us is key to overall sexual health.
How to Deal with Sexual Regret
We all do things in life we regret. But when it comes to sex we regret the sting is often so much sharper! May be it has to do with the vulnerability of letting someone see you out of control with pleasure. Maybe it’s because, if you’re a person receiving penetration you’re literally letting someone into your body, and that’s a big deal. Maybe you did something those conflicts with your values – or even a combination of all those things. When these moments arise, self-compassion, clear boundaries about what is ours to own and what isn’t and non-defensive communication skills are so very important for moving through the experience into healing – for all parties.
Bare Bones Relationships Etiquette
It’s always struck me as odd that we didn’t talk about human interaction in Sex Ed. After all, 95% of what we talked about involved other people in some way. I’m not expecting any huge lessons here, but basic things like as soon as one person decides the relationship is over, it’s over or perusing someone after they’ve said no is harassment. Most people I know – myself included – have had one relationship (often when they were young) that they thought they couldn’t leave because their partner said no. Relationships need to be mutually consensual; otherwise we’re talking about abuse. People need to know what makes for healthy and unhealthy relationships!
Nothing Must End in Sex
When we get stuck believing all roads end in (penetrative) sex it can be really scary engaging in any kind of sexual activity unless we’re sure we want to have penetrative sex in that moment. But is unnecessary stress! Sexual encounters aren’t some kind of slide you can’t get off and have no choice but to fall into a sex sand pit at the bottom. Encounters can be whatever you and your partner (or partners) want them to be and stop at whatever line you want them to stop. Knowing that you can choose a different path at any point in your sexual activities makes it so much easier to be in the actual moment and say yes to whatever comes up that feels good for you.
What do you know now that you wish had been shared earlier? Let me know in the comments below!