The main purpose of creating this blog was to discuss the ways our current sexual education system fails us. My posts have covered a number of different topics regarding sex education but I realized that I wanted to once again situate the conversation and highlight the need for these discussions. I reached out to some of the queer women on my campus and asked them to share their stories about the sexual education they received growing up. All of the women I spoke to have been misled by teachers, doctors, and parents. They have relied on television shows and internet communities to learn about queer sex, and it has impacted them all in different ways. Their stories are proof that queer people aren’t being taught about safe sex and are being forced to try to figure it out on their own. I’ve decided to include these stories because more than anything else they show us how much important work we have left to do. They make all of these overarching themes of safe sex more personal and more relevant.
“Last year I went to my gynecologist for my annual check up. I was already out to my gynecologist and he was like ‘alright, that’s great.’ I had come out to him because he had told me ‘I just want to let you know that guys just want to get into your pants so make sure you don’t trust men…’ and I was like ‘actually I’m gay.” And he said ‘ok, well girls just want to get in your pants too, don’t trust women.’ So last year when I went I said ‘I have a question about safe sex in terms of women who have sex with women. I don’t ever use dental dams. I’ve never had sex with anyone who’s used a dental dam or has wanted one. How easy is it for women to spread STDs to other women and how important is it to use a dental dam?’ And his response- a gynecologist’s response- was ‘don’t use a dental dam. I think they’re gross and make you look like Hannibal Lector.’
That was what my gynecologist told me. In the moment I thought it was really really really funny, but then the more I thought about it, that was a totally irresponsible thing for him to say. As a medical professional he should say ‘you should use a dental dam anytime you’re performing oral sex on someone else.’ And he didn’t. And I think that is the opinion I’ve gotten from a lot of people- that dental dams are gross. But at the same time in my sex ed classes in middle school, because I never had sex in high school, no one discussed dental dams. I had never even heard about dental dams. It was all very very very heteronormative. I think teachers just assume that since the majority of the people they are talking to are straight, then it makes more sense to focus on straight sex. I didn’t learn anything about sex as queer woman in sex ed. That was all the internet, The L Word, the gay and lesbian movies on Netflix and that’s about it.”
“In 6th grade I had a home room teacher that was my main teacher and we were supposed to have a unit on sex education. She must have run out of time because literally on the last day of class, the day before summer, she spends 20 minutes handing out little cards to anyone. She said “If you have any questions about sex write them down.” Then she collects them and stands at the front of the class and literally…we learned nothing. It was such a blatant way of being like “and this doesn’t matter for you and it doesn’t matter to me if you know this information.”
I thought it was weird at the time but the more I looked back on it I’m like holy shit- 6th grade is a big year! That’s when people are getting their periods for the first time and all this shit is happening to your body and you’re starting to experience attraction for real. And she just totally dropped the ball. I learned nothing.”
Without any solid sexual education programming or any understanding of queer sex, Aya, like many queer people, turned to alternative sources for information about engaging in sex and intimacy.
“So I watched The L Word where Shane has sex with Molly. It was Molly’s first time having sex with a woman and it’s this scene where she’s had to get over her fears and it’s really intense and their in this barn or something and then the one thing that Shane says to her is “Breathe with your mouth.” Then the scene fades to black right as she’s about to go down on Shane. And that’s like the one thing I had in mind was ‘breathe through your mouth, breath through your mouth.’ So the first time I went down on a girl I had labored breathing and was audible gasping for air. Because that was my one piece of knowledge through my fear of having sex with a woman for the first time.”
“I had sex ed in high school for probably about two weeks. I specifically remember my teacher- the gym teachers taught us sex ed. It was supposed to be half sex ed, half driver’s ed, but really it was like 8/9ths driver’s ed, 1/9th sex ed. I specifically remember the teacher that was supposed to be teaching me sex ed saying ‘Listen, you’re lucky that you have me to teach you because sex is great. Sex is awesome and I’m awesome at it. So it’s great that you’re learning from me.’And I remember sitting there thinking like ‘what??’
But then when we did cover it we had a project where we were all assigned STDs and we had to research them and present them to the group about ways to prevent getting these STDS. Of course everyone talked about condoms and abstinence but I remember there was this one girl who brought a dental dam. And the teacher didn’t know what a dental dam was. So there was this 14-year-old girl explaining to the teacher what people use dental dams for. Everyone’s mind was blown. Including my own. She mentioned that sometimes their used by lesbians- that they’ll place them on their partners’ vaginas for oral sex and I was like ‘wow! that’s awesome! I didn’t even think that that was a thing!’
Sex ed had never really gotten into the mechanics of sex besides saying ‘use a condom when you have sex,’ so my only knowledge of safe sex included [roll on] condom usage which I never really needed in my sexual encounters. So I remember coming to college and everyone was like talking about safe sex and I was like ‘No, it’s fine. I’m a lesbian. All of my sex is safe sex.’ Which is not true and is a very dangerous thought to have. Especially when you come to college and you’re a lot more liberal sexually.”
Did you have better experiences with sex education growing up? Leave your stories in the comments. Unfortunately, many queer women don’t receive any relevant sex ed. Here’s a link to a great reference about queer women’s safe sex for those who like Aya, Cindy, and Faith, didn’t receive proper information about their sexual health needs.