Understanding the Changes Needed for Adult Education

Information is the key to managing our sex lives and making informed choices about our sexual health, which is an essential component of our lives. But many of us had little sex education in school, so we lack some foundational understanding of intimate health as adults.

Most individuals, when asked about their own experiences in sex education courses, remember learning about the reproductive function of sex and that girls’ and boys’ classes were divided such that females learned about periods and guys learned about wet dreams. Only heterosexual and penetrative sex was discussed, with little attention paid to sex for pleasure, emotions, or psychology. A recent survey conducted by YES found that 22% of respondents wished they had learned more about the emotional side of sex in their sex education, while 19% wished they had learned more about peer pressure and 12% wished they had learned more about vaginal dryness and the fact that sex can be painful. Other replies included a need for greater knowledge about sexually transmitted infections, the enjoyment of sex for its own sake, tampon use, the anatomy of the female reproductive system, masturbation, other methods of birth control, and sex in contexts other than heterosexual partnerships.

The idea that adults don’t benefit from sex education is one of the most harmful and widely held sex myths. These are facts you already know.

We’re okay, we all had sex education in junior high or high school, right?

Wrong. I can’t speak to the quality of your sex education program. My teachers were either the football coach or the math instructor, and we were both uncomfortable (ie not a trained sexuality educator). There was a lack of knowledge about the “other” since people of other genders were kept apart (and because no one addressed the existence of people who do not identify with either of the two established genders). I recall that we had a short conversation on menstruation (from what I understand from talking to male classmates, they did not get any period information), pregnancy, and STIs (then termed STDs). If you wanted to prevent becoming pregnant or ill (and we have the photos to prove it), then you should avoid having sex.

Twenty years later, not much has changed when it comes to sex education, with just 38 states requiring sex ed and even fewer (22) requiring factual information (really). Yikes! Sex Education Laws and Policies in Each State (ncsl.org). Additionally, experts like AASECT sexuality educators are unnecessary. So, I’m curious: What exactly are students learning in class? What did you learn in class, by the way?

Despite this, how many individuals actively seek out reliable resources on sexuality? Who does, and where do they go if they do (few, if any, if you believe Woman on Fire author Amy Jo Goddard)? No, not their doctor or hospital. According to studies, both patients and healthcare practitioners believe the other to bring up the topic of sexuality during their appointments. (I put sexuality out there explicitly in my group offers and on my client evals to prevent this uncomfortable silence.)

Find and follow (or better yet, pay) sexuality educators, counselors, and therapists; attend workshops (bonus points 1)if the content is related to learning about your own body rather than how to pleasure a partner; you need to know your body to be able to ask for what you need and want and 2)from a feminist and/or women-owned or minority-owned sex shop); read books; and so on. Educate yourself with books (my fave!!! – there are some fantastic sex novels out there); participate in conferences (these are expensive and are often only attended by professionals in the sex industry but they are open to the public).

How have you found success in teaching about sexuality?

The complexities of sexuality are what keep me interested in the topic for as long as I can remember. Some people would find it daunting to try to learn all there is to know about sex, while others might find it thrilling. The argument is that understanding one’s sexuality is an ongoing process that yields benefits throughout one’s life.

These questions only took 5-10 minutes to conceive up; now consider the many more you might ask yourself, your partner(s), and the world throughout a lifetime. Also, you may have seen that none of the articles are focused on teaching you how to do anything in particular.