Like Em, I am going to participate in the Scarleteen fundraising drive a little by blogging about my experience with sex education. I am also a Volunteer at ST (all shiny and new) and I first came to the site about a year and a half ago, seeking advice. By now, I am there every day giving advice because I enjoy passing on the knowledge I have gained.
Growing up in Germany, I'd seen naked bodies on television before I was old enough to be able to name all the parts I was seeing. The first time we had sex education in school was in fourth grade. We were taught out of a book that told the story of a married couple who were expecting their second child and explaining to their daughter how the baby was conceived. The story was told with innocent but realistic drawings and followed the couple from conception to birth.
That year, a boy used his mother's gym bag to bring his own gym clothes to class and when he unpacked the bag in front of us, he pulled out a few condoms. He told us that they were condoms and that his mother and her boyfriend used them, but that was where his knowledge ended and we puzzled over their exact purpose.
In 7th grade, I had my second round of sex education, just a couple of months after my first kiss. That time, the teacher mentioned HIV and explained how to use a condom and what the birth control pill was.
In 8th grade, I learned what homosexuality was, started my period and had avid discussions on sex and masturbation with my best friend, A. We both could not wait to find out what it was all about and made a pact that we would lose our virginities before we turned 16. I failed, she succeeded. Her boyfriend broke up with her two weeks after their first time and she confessed later that she hadn't enjoyed it at all.
Towards the end of the schoolyear, my next-door neighbour and father of a good friend of mine started to sexually abuse me and I did not manage to get out of that situation for a few months. By the start of 9th grade, I was questioning my sexuality and more than ever bound and determined to sleep with a guy as soon as possible, if only to prove I was 'normal'.
In 10th grade, I had my third and last class on sex education. It was not compulsory and kids who had a note from their parents were allowed to spend that period in the library instead. Most of the children who went to library came from religious backgrounds. Our teacher was too embarrased to talk about pads and only brought up tampons because a girl in my class handed him one from her own backpack and asked him to make a mention of them. His drawings on reproductive organs did, however, include the clitoris. Most of us had never heard of it before.
Eventually I started dating girls, even though I still was not sure quite what I was. I figured it would be safer, too. After all, pregnancy would not be a concern and I had no idea that STIs could be passed on with sex between two women.
I almost had my first time at 19, but didn't. Not because we did not have any sort of protection, or because were both seeing someone else at the time. I stopped him because I thought it would be expected of me to orgasm, and I was afraid I'd fail somehow and embarrass the both of us. When I was seeing someone else a few months later, a friend talked me into making an appointment with a gyn to get the pill. I had never been to a gyn before.
The boy I was seeing raped me, and that is how I eventually ended up on Scarleteen. And wow, have I learned since then. I have learned that there are more STIs out there than HIV and Herpes and I have learned how to prevent them. I have learned about sexual response and why 'sex' is about much more than 'penis-in-vagina'. I learned how to deal with the after-effects of my rape and sexual abuse, and why not knowing what the heck my sexual orientation is isn't such a big deal. Most of all I have learned to be confident about myself, my body and my choices. None of which I was ever taught in any of the sex education classes I attended.
Even though my parents always encouraged me to be open with them, even though my teachers meant well, even though I was never afraid to ask questions, even though I grew up in a country that is supposedly liberal and open - the first real sex ed I got was at Scarleteen.com.