Cover Story: Sex, Education

Why can’t we just openly talk about sex? It’s dangerous that we don’t, reports Ryan Bolton.

There is something implosive about sex. Not necessarily the act (albeit it is), but the word itself. The word is loaded. It excites us. Bristles us. Shoots a feeling of stupid glee and inexplicable fear through our skulls, simultaneously. Every time it makes our bodies silently jolt and allows our minds to wander like a lost Buddhist in the Andes. Like winning the Stanley Cup or a beauty pageant whilst standing in the eye of a hurricane. We all feel it, for better or for worse.

The reasons for this, of course, are myriad. You have religion saying, “No, bad.” You have TV and movies saying, “We’re doing it, are you?” And you have parents saying, “Don’t be stupid. Please, don’t be stupid.” Throw some haphazard advice from your best friend into the crockpot and you have yourself a confused culture around a beautiful, intimate act. There is one component that I am leaving out of our birds and bees talk, however.


Click to view print version.

Click to view print version.

The world of books, recess, rulers and the common cantankerous math teacher offers more learning than just the travels of Christopher Columbus. It offers a birthplace of learning about one’s body and the inner trenches of the opposite and same sex. It’s through school that we revel in the netherworld of puberty, enjoy the pleasantries of kissing tag, fall captive to childhood crushes and its corresponding heartbreak. We mature physically, emotionally, mentally and sexually during our school years. Definitely sexually. Since education occurs during a time when we are maturing, the classroom – and playground – serve as a swimming pool of a unique and experimental kind of learning. From our first session of hand holding as we saunter to second period, we progress through the throes of sexuality in school. It only makes sense that as we venture to the level of education at where you find yourself reading this magazine, that sex is not just part of your lexicon, but your actions.

The obvious thoughts serve correct and commonplace: College is a place where we experience, learn and experiment.  We of course learn about economics and how to create a spreadsheet, but beyond the walls of academia deliver us into an arguably important educational system. Hanging out in those dungy basement apartments, putting back a drink on the local bar stool, walking the halls with that individual that makes your thoughts run askew. We grow. We learn. We tacitly understand in college. From those innocent childhood days of kissing tag to today, where we fall prey to the same sex, the opposite sex, or both sexes, sex is that word that society has conflicting views about and euphemisms for, and we, the sexual travelers, plunge into no man’s land figuring it out for ourselves.

Ask yourself these questions. How did you learn about sex? What was your main education about the maturing of your body? When did you first fall captive to the same or opposite sex? Were you left to figure it out?

As we wandered the halls of elementary school, our bodies wandered the depths of sexual transformation. While we passed notes in high school, we passed the stories of sexual endeavors and occasional mishaps. And while learning the controls of Photoshop in college, we learned the controls of the opposite or same sex. Education, or the institutions that we are fitted within, serve as our battleground for sexual maturity. Sex and education are two in one (if you know what I mean.)

Liberation of a Word and a Generation(s)

Today, many recoil at the sight of micro skirts and clothing that cannot properly be called clothing, but here we have it: Sex is finally a part of daily language and actions. Sex is on the TV around the clock. Sex a tool for boastful talk of sexual escapades for confused male teenagers. Sex is (clearly) on the Internet. Sex is dangling from giant billboards. And sex, that deliciously subversive word that it is, is in the classroom, restroom, airplane, public park, jacuzzi, car seat, and sometimes, just sometimes the bedroom. But with all that, it’s still not openly accepted and it’s definitely not overtly discussed. That’s the biggest paradox of all. Although sex is everywhere we go and a lot of what we do, we still can’t divulge in educated talks about it. The act isn’t so stigmatized any longer, but the talk is.

That can’t be good. And really, it’s not.

Let’s Talk About the Birds and the Bees

The strange aspect in all of this, of course, is that I can’t arguably say anything “new” about sex. A lot – over many centuries – has been said about it, and I’m not about to take on the Romantic poets. What I am scratching at, moreover, is that although we all know about sex, we as a society, still don’t openly talk about it. It’s as if we are all the children that don’t want to hear our parents give us the talk about our changing bodies. But since we learn, experiment and experience sex during our educations, why not put sex in an accessible, safe conduit?

Education is power. No one refutes this. Then, as I have argued that we sexually develop through tacit understanding and experiences during our school years, why don’t we honestly chat about sex? More than just the farcical sex ed. classes and the flaunting of sexual crusades, but the real beauty and danger of sex. Instead, we are taught to try the car out. We test the roads and the windshield wipers. We sometimes take a corner a little too fast with tires screeching. And we occasionally get in an accident. The problem is that the driving school is lackluster. It’s a shitty class that no one pays any real attention to. It’s a faulty system.

Let’s put it this way: No one likes to talk sex with their parents. But that is exactly what I just did. As a 23-year-old, I openly talked to my parents about sex and asked their attitudes towards the subject. They are quite liberal on the subject, hence maybe why I am writing this article in the first place. Hmm.

Anyway, we bristle at the idea of the birds and bees talk with our caregivers and because of this, we are never fully educated about our changing bodies and sex. We never engage in full out conversations about sex in our society; instead, we learn about it in splinters. A tidbit of exploratory dialogue from a classmate. A sex scene starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. A preacher pedantically berating sex before marriage. It’s only through these snippets of vignettes that we learn, watch and grow as sexual human beings. We implicitly learn and then experimentally discover. We makeout in the school washroom or underneath a stairwell. We go to after-school parties and sip on hooch while watching the opposite or same sex until a combination of hormones and booze get the best of us. It’s all fun in games, until someone gets pregnant.           

Sex is not defined by a boastful telling of sexual exploit. Sex is not to be learned through a patchwork of shoddy advice from celebrities. And sex should not be taught through haphazard experimentation because no one would openly explain the pros, cons and seriousness of sex.

So instead of waiting for the awkward pillow talk, what about some informed, casual talk beforehand?

You never know, it could be a little fun, not to mention, educational.

This article is not intended to offend or disrespect anyone or any group in any way or extent, whatsoever. Its purpose is to merely shed light on an important, usually tacit topic. It’s intent is not tell you what to think, but what to think about.

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