Sex Ed Didn’t Teach Me About Sex
Fifth grade horrified me.
It was Sex Ed Day and time to learn about sex and puberty.
I didn’t know what sex was. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know.
I sat front row on the floor and stared in horror as the school nurse explained periods. My little eyes widened in terror as she told us about cramps and bleeding and pregnancy.
I remembered my sister, who lay in bed sometimes in agony and crying from her periods. Mom wouldn’t tell me what was wrong. Now I understood, and I was terrified.
When the discussion turned to sex, us school children laughed and cringed and made jokes to get through the awkwardness of it all.
But instead of an actual discussion on sex, the school nurse screened a slideshow of unsavory photographs.
The photos showed several sexually transmitted diseases that could come from sex. The nasty infections on male and female genitalia were enough to upset anyone’s stomach.
We gagged. We covered our eyes. We turned our heads.
That’s what happened from sex?
Abstinence was the best medicine, we were told.
Don’t want these diseases? Don’t have sex.
In middle school, I found no interest in dating. I buried my head in books and focused on figuring myself out.
When one of our classmates fell pregnant, it shocked me. We were only middle schoolers. We were still kids ourselves.
Hell, I still slept with my stuffed animal unicorn, Unico.
People my age had sex? I thought. I couldn’t imagine myself doing it, but then I realized more and more people my age were doing it. Whatever it was.
Female classmates were discussing their crushes. I didn’t have one. Boys hadn’t shown any interest in me.
I had not yet realized that I didn’t even like boys.
That summer at church camp I tried to make friends. A classmate invited me to join her and a group of boys at a spot they liked to hang out at away from the adults. It didn’t take long for me to realize why we were there.
Emily had a disposable camera and asked me to take a picture of her and her boyfriend. When I lifted up the camera, I saw him grope her breast and she gave the camera the middle finger.
Shock hit me again.
How he touched her wasn’t appropriate. They began to kiss. The touching grew even more intimate. I felt sick. We were kids at church camp, for God’s sake.
I excused myself and walked back to the church cabin alone in the dark. I faked a stomach ache and said I needed to lay down.
Was I just the odd one out?
I still didn’t understand the basics of sex while heading into high school. I barely understood my own anatomy as it was. I focused on my online life to escape my real one.
I loved to write fiction and joined an online roleplay chat game about vampires. It largely focused on text-based roleplay writing.
With a fresh obsession in vampire books like “The Silver Kiss,” “Shattered Mirror,” and anything Anne Rice, the game had me hooked.
I could be anyone and anything. I crafted several characters, all men.
As a closeted transgender male teenager, the Internet gave me the freedom of masculine expression I couldn’t get outside the computer.
Of surprise to me was the popularity of my characters.
My men were at the center of several female characters’ attention. That interest grew into character dating. But when it came to a character wanting sex with mine, I didn’t know what to do.
I avoided writing it. I would conveniently need to log off the computer when those “private” times arrived in a roleplay.
Embarrassment consumed me.
How could I explain to a stranger that I didn’t know how to write sex?
I wasn’t sure I even wanted to write it.
It didn’t interest me. It still doesn’t. When I roleplay now, I let my writing counterpart know I prefer the “fade to black” method. They usually don’t mind.
A time came that I had to confess to one of the writers: I didn’t know anything about sex.
She couldn’t believe it.
She began to question me on any sexual experiences of mine. I had none. She wanted to know what I knew, and I knew almost nothing.
Suggestions were thrown my way. Watch porn, she said. Read erotica.
I wasn’t interested in either.
When I met writers who really felt invested in fleshing those scenes out, I offered over creative control. They could write my character and their character doing-the-do. I’d read along but not engage.
A few did pressure me into writing it with them despite my disinterest. They applauded my attempts, as flawed as those attempts were.
This is where my true sex education started.
To my benefit, I met a lot of good people, people who actually cared to teach me.
They sent me scientific diagrams and medical articles. They answered my questions with the utmost sincerity and respect.
Perversion didn’t enter the picture.
It is a miracle I didn’t stumble upon those types of people.
My innocence would have been an easy target to prey on.
Comprehensive sex education is a necessity.
Teach abstinence. Teach contraception.
Issues such as sexual assault and harassment need to be addressed.
Continue education into high school.
We had a one-day course in fifth grade and never heard about sex again.
Our science texts in high school had the genitalia diagrams blocked out in black marker. Our biology teacher forced us to watch a graphic video with an unobscured view of a woman screaming as she gave birth as a way to terrify us away from sex. He laughed as we cringed.
It’s not a surprise that several of my classmates gave birth before senior year. A few were pregnant on graduation day. One classmate had two kids by senior year.
Students should learn about biological sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation. I grew up never knowing the word transgender. I barely knew what lesbian meant.
Pretending these things don’t exist won’t stop them from existing, but it could save someone from years of self-torment.
It would’ve helped save me many years.
Teens and young adults shouldn’t need to go to the Internet to learn sex.
Porn gives false ideas about what sex is. Erotica can do the same depending on the piece read.
No one should have to learn what sex is by roleplaying it online with strangers. It’s not only weird. It’s dangerous.
The way sex is taught in our schools needs to change. When individual districts are given leeway on what is taught and how, gaps in sex education will remain.
We must advocate for better sex education — for the future safety of all our youth.
Cassius Corbin is a poet, fiction writer, photographer, and full-time journalist from rural Oklahoma. Follow him on Twitter @cassiuscorbin, Instagram @sixfeetrooted or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.