I received my first sex ed class when I was in the 5th grade. The teacher projected a cartoon of a boy shivering underneath the bed covers. The teacher asked, "What do you think this boy is doing?" We all raised our hands and answered, "He is worried of puberty," "He is worried the other kids will laugh at him because his body is changing," "He is having nightmares about growing up." The teacher nodded his head, took a deep breath and said, "He is masturbating."
A couple years ago, I volunteered to build a health and sex curriculum for the 6th grade. I taught math for 6 years and felt this would be an awesome opportunity to be the “cool” teacher. As a math teacher you deal with a lot of whining and crying from both students and parents. This was going to be my chance to become a school legend and hero. Here are a few memorable moments from my single year as a sex ed teacher.
Any question I asked, one student always replied with masturbation as his answer.
Me: “If people want to prevent pregnancy what should they do?”
If I had been teaching an entire lesson on condoms as a form of contraception and asked a question where the answer was obviously supposed to be condoms, he would still answer masturbate.
Me: “So with the new information we know now, what is one way people can prevent catching STDs?”
Me: “Well, that’s one way. Anyone else?”
Clearly, this young man had learned masturbation was a normal and healthy exercise and he was ready to wave his masturbator flag.
Teaching sexual education is tricky. You want it to keep it as biologically straight forward as possible. So when students ask questions about technique, things get weird.
Student: “Why do women use vibrators? That just seems like something that would hurt.”
Me: “Hmm, ok. I can see why you would think that. Um. I think this would be a great question to ask mom.”
I had a shoebox available for the students to drop anonymous questions into. Keep in mind, my class consisted of about 5 girls and 5 boys. The boys typically asked questions about boy things, same with the girls. Then, I could narrow down who was asking the question based on their handwriting. When you have a question box, you are really taking a risk. Who knows what will end up in that thing. My biggest fear was getting something in the box that revealed a student was being abused or hurt in some way. Knowing their handwriting brought comfort because then I could take care of that kind of situation directly. But what if you knew who was asking what question and you got something like this:
“I have bumps on the bottom of my penis. Is this okay?”
I’ve never had bumps on my penis so I had to ask a couple of the male teachers what they thought of this question. I was waiting for them to tell me the kid should go see a doctor or tell his parents, but instead I got:
“Wait, did he write bumps or lumps? If it’s bumps, it’s cool.”
My lesson the next day had a focus on the difference between bumps and lumps.
The parents were very supportive of this program. After every class I emailed a list of parents with any information I taught the students including my Powerpoints and handouts. I also included a list of the questions the students asked so they would be aware of what the kids were curious about. I acted as their Sex Ambassador. I recall receiving a couple of phone calls with genuine concerns about their students and sex. Here are a couple of those conversations:
Me: “Hello. How are you?”
Parent: “Hey Constance, doing well. Do you have a minute to speak?”
Me: “Sure, what’s up?”
Parent: “So, I don’t know if you’ve heard about this, but I thought it could be something you could speak to the kids about.
If it’s about the anatomy of a penis, I might not know the details off the top of my head (no pun intended), but I’m pretty informed in many other areas.
Parent: “The kids have been soaking tampons in alcohol and inserting them into their vaginas and anuses.”
Me: *slience* “Wait, our kids are doing that?”
Parent: “No, I heard about this from a friend of mine. They are doing this so their parents can’t smell the alcohol on their breath.”
Me: “Ok. Let me do a little more research and see what I can find about this. Thanks for calling me.”
I shared this with some of my colleagues. It’s unbelievable what kids will do to get wasted. This is actually very dangerous. The alcohol goes directly into your bloodstream and causes extreme alcohol poisoning. Parents, if your son has tampons in his room and hasn’t started his period yet, he is probably drinking some butt-hole cocktails.
Another parent took advantage of my role a little too much.
Parent: “Hey, Constance. I wanted to talk to you about Johnny.”
Me: “Sure, what’s going on?”
Parent: “Well, he has been getting a lot of text messages from the girls lately.”
Me: “He is a little cutie. Is he liking all the attention?”
Parent: “Well, there is one girl who is texting a lot.”
Me: “Ok. Do we need to take his phone away?”
Parent: “No, she...she sent a text that I’m a worried about.”
Me: “What did it say?” SPIT IT OUT WOMAN.
Parent: “It said, when I touch myself, I think of your fingers inside me.”
Parent: “Could you maybe, talk to her parents about this?”
I very politely expressed this should be a conversation between parents and reaching out and communicating directly would be the best way to resolve this issue. However, in my mind I was like, “HEEEEELL NO!”
When we started the Sex Unit, my kids used a lot of slang words. One of the words I hated to hear in class but heard it all the time was cum. Even after teaching them to use the word ejaculate, they still used the word cum. Having a group of 11 year olds repeat this word at least 12 times a class does something to your soul. I started to hear the word in a slo-mo demon voice every time my students would say it. CUUUUUMMMMMM. It made my insides cringe.
This was the most fun and the most unique experience of my teaching career. I still have an entire folder of STD ridden private parts on my desktop. Just in case someone needs me to teach their kids about sex, ya know?