Thursday, April 18, 2013

Let's Talk About Sex

Ok, not quite what I meant. 

I'll apologize right now. This post is going to be a long one. 

As women trying to conceive, we know a lot about sex. Not just different positions, but the more scientific stuff, too. I'll admit something, though. Before I was trying to make a baby, I didn't know a whole lot about sex. Sure, I thought I knew about sex when I was in high school. My friend and I were actually quite open to talking about it, but you know how most teenagers are, 75% of the information we were spreading around was incorrect. We knew the basics: if a man put his penis into a woman's vagina, she'd get pregnant. Or so we thought. 

When I first was diagnosed with PCOS and was told that we may have trouble getting pregnant "naturally," I threw myself into researching anything and everything that was remotely related. I read blogs, books, and more, all about our reproductive systems. At 23, I was actually really surprised that I didn't know that you could only get pregnant a few days out of your cycle. I guess since no one told me otherwise, I always thought that if you had sex, there was a chance. I knew that a woman releases an egg and that a sperm had to meet it to make a baby, but I didn't realize that an egg was only released once in a woman's cycle or that both the egg and sperm had short lifetimes in which they had the chance to meet. 

As I continued to read, I was surprised over and over again about what I thought I knew about sex and baby making, but in reality, I knew very little. I began to think about why I knew so little about my own reproductive abilities. Sure, I had "sex education" in school, starting in fourth grade with a female teacher taking the girls and a male teacher taking the boys and explaining what would shortly begin happening when our bodies hit puberty. We were given samples of deodorant and feminine hygiene products and went on our way. In 9th grade, we had a whole semester of health class which had a section about sex. We were shown pictures of STDs and very briefly went over how reproduction happens (obviously I didn't retain much,) but with a class full of mostly guys, we didn't get into too much detail so that the snickering would subside. Besides, that, I wasn't really taught much about sex. My mom gave me a book when I started my period that went into the changes that were happening to my body, but that didn't go into much detail. She also took me to Garfields, a restaurant in the mall, and had "The Talk" with me over dinner (complete with pictures of smiling sperm,) but I was more horrified about the fact that our cute male waiter was going to realize what we were talking about to really pay attention. 

Looking back, do I blame anyone for my lack of information? No. The teachers were doing their jobs with the limited time they had, and I'm sure giving the sex talk was the last thing my parents wanted to do. The threat of STDs and the stigma of being a "slut" ensured that I didn't have sex until I was about 18 and it was with my boyfriend of over 3 years. 

All this background leads up to the story that I really wanted to talk about today. One of my friends on Facebook posted a story about Katelyn Campbell, a senior at a West Virginia high school, who protested her school's abstinence only school assembly. Katelyn's high school recently hosted conservative speaker, Pam Stenzel, who travels around the country to advocate an abstinence only program. According to the article, Stenzel doesn't have the best reputation, but that's neither here nor there (the article goes into more detail.)

What I really want to talk about is the fact that kids these days don't seem to have a choice about how they're taught about sexuality. Katelyn's principal apparently threatened to tell the college that she has been accepted to that she has "bad character" because she refused to go to the assembly. I'll be frank and say that I think that abstinence only programs are worthless. Yes, I agree with the idea of telling kids that they shouldn't have sex until they're ready. But not teaching them about their bodies, how babies are really made, how STDs are really transmitted is just setting them up to fail. I was once a teenager (not to long ago!) and I know that even though you tell a teen not to do something, most of the time they will anyways. Peer pressure is a much more convincing argument than what your "un-cool" parents told you.

Living in Mississippi, I have heard so many horror stories about teenagers coming into local clinics because they're pregnant due to the fact that they had the wrong information. I was once told that a young woman held her urine for hours after sex because apparently "peeing after sex increased your risk of getting pregnant." She was at the clinic because she had a UTI. My boss, who once worked at a home for mentally disabled adults, told me that one of the registered nurses was telling people that the only way to not get AIDS is to have anal sex. A registered nurse! 

It scares and worries me how little sexual education there is out in the world. It really scares me that we are not arming our youth with the education they need about their bodies. If I had known that there was only a short window of time that I was able to get pregnant, I may have done things differently during my teenage yers. I wouldn't have had sex earlier, simply due to the fact that I wasn't emotionally and mentally ready. However, I may not have gone on birth control for so many years which may have lead to discovering that I have PCOS earlier. 

I truly believe that knowledge is power, so I'm a big advocate of giving our youth knowledge about their sex lives. So many people out there believe that by telling kids about their bodies will give them the ok to have sex. I don't believe so. I think that kids are going to have sex no matter what we tell them. However, if we tell them how to be safe while having sex and not scaring them into not asking questions, it will empower them to make safe choices for themselves. 

I fully acknowledge that I'm going to be the hated parent on the playground, especially if we stay in conservative Mississippi. I fully intend to tell my children about their bodies, what the proper names for their body parts are, how they work, and when they get older, how sex works, which I'm sure they will pass around the playground. I will still advise that they do not have sex until they are ready, preferably with someone they love. However, I'm not stupid. Kids make mistakes and I'm sure they will have sex with more than one partner before they are married. But, I want my kids to be informed. I want them to ask about birth control and condoms, and if I ever have girls, I want to teach them about their cycles. If they choose so, I will teach them about temping and how to read their body's natural signs as another way to prevent pregnancy. I want my children to be informed so that hopefully, they can start spreading correct information around. 

I'd like to open a discussion about this. What do you think about today's sex education? Did the sex education you received in high school leave you with questions? What are you going to tell you kids down the road? 

Note: if this discussion gets ugly, I will turn off or delete comments. I would love to have an adult discussion about this, but it's my blog and if names start being thrown around or people being rude, I will pull the plug. 

I will give credit to Wellesley College where Katelyn was accepted. They twitted (twittered? twated?) yesterday that Katelyn is welcome in the fall. 


  1. I agree with you. I've only had sex with my husband. I don't think it's necessary to wait until marriage but I do think it's a good idea to wait until you love that person and could deal (emotionally, physically, etc) with having a child. That is what I plan to teach any children we manage to have, but I also plan on informing them about reproduction and their bodies in general. I know there is a chance they will disagree with us and have sex more promiscuously than we would like, but that could happen whether or not we teach them the facts. I'm all about making informed decisions. If we have a daughter I will probably give her Taking Charge of Your Fertility at 13 or some such appropriate age.

  2. Kids will do what human nature tells them to. I know I did. I was raised that sex was only meant for marriage and we never talked about it. We were not allowed to watch scenes in movies. I think that its best to be honest, open, and accepting. Sex education needs to be addresses differently. I think it is important that men and women know how the bodies work! My mom had 7 kids and no idea what a follice was until yesterday!

  3. (Here from ICLW)

    I cheered when I read about Katelyn Campbell. Kids deserve to have comprehensive sex education in public schools. Yes, parents should be teaching their kids about their bodies, sex, and reproduction, but, let's face it, not all parents are cut out for that. It's the responsibility of all society to make sure that our young people are informed. After all, STDs are a public health issue, and it benefits all of society to prevent unwanted pregnancies. I fully intend on teaching my kids about their bodies from a young age, and introducing sex and reproduction early on. I don't care if other parents hate me because my kid told their kid where babies REALLY come from. You can teach kids all about sex AND encourage them to abstain.

  4. BABY!

    (Sorry, couldn't help myself!)

    Hi From ICLW! I love this post :)

    I was raised with the "No sex before marriage" rule; however, when I was dating my boyfriend (now Husband) talks about using condoms did arise occasionally. But even at a young age (like, middle school) I knew I wasn't going to make it that long. I knew that I'd have sex 1) when I was ready and 2) my first time would be with someone I loved. I didn't have sex until I was ready and it was with my now-husband. And really, I waited until I KNEW he wouldn't leave me hanging should I get pregnant and decided to keep the baby. He's my first and only (which is weird to people), but the fact I had boyfriend didn't stop me from getting labled a slut by some "friends" I had in HS, despite not having sex and not sleeping around. Hubby was pressured by his "friends" into breaking up with me on multiple occasions because I wouldn't put out. The topic of sex makes things rough for kids/teens.

    I DO think sex education needs to be revamped. If you want to be abstinant, great! I knew I wasn't ever going to be up for that. I think that we're like most animals and we have urges and as much as we don't want to think about it, kids (I've heard as young as 5th grade -- YIKES) may give into those urges. Whether it's a personal decision or from peer pressure.

    It's those kids, who I believe would be in the majority, who need to be educated. Because by not teaching, we are setting ourselves up for lots of tween/teen pregnancies and STD epidemics. If schools can continue to do that -- GREAT! It helps parents out who may feel uncomfortable starting the conversation. But the conversations HAVE to happen. BOTH SEXES need to understand how each other's bodies work. I think sex education also needs to include touching on infertility once kids get to high school. All the sex ed I had drilled the "girls get their period about every 28 days and ovulation occurs about two weeks before that" into our heads. While it's true that ovulation happens two weeks before a woman's period, the actual length of a cycle could be a lot longer than "about 28 days."

    Pre-TCC I couldn't tell you a thing about knowing when I was ovulating. So, it was the pill and/or a condom for me. It wasn't until my husband and I were trying to conceive that I really understood how a cycle worked. REALLY worked. Charting actually made me realize that every few months my cycle is a few days longer than the rest. I do plan on teaching any girls I have how to track their cycles, right down to the egg white mucous! It's scary to know they might use that information in order to avoid having sex at certain times, but it's information they'll need to know when they are ready to really start trying. And who knows? Maybe it WILL keep them from getting pregnant. I don't think guys need to know how to chart a cycle, but they should have an understanding so that when they decide they are ready for kids, they aren't standing at the sidelines oblivious to why their partner is excited about her mucous :) Or, if they aren't ready, they don't push the subject of sex if their partner says "Now's not a good time."

    I feel like I flew off on several tangents! I just have lots to say on this topic. I didn't think I did, but the whole TTC journey made me realize that sex ed needs to be revamped a bit to give our kids the tools they need to know how their bodies work and make educated decisions on how they use them.

    ICLW #61