Outsourcing Sex Ed

The sex ed classes I had as a child were taught by the public schools I attended.

In sixth grade, we were segregated by sex and went into separate rooms to learn about our changing bodies from the school nurse. I don’t know what the boys learned, but the nurse showed us a movie that assured us that eating potato chips and chocolate would not cause pimples. (I think the movie was sponsored by Junk Food Producers of America.)

In high school, our euphemistically titled “health class” was taught by our P.E. teacher, who yawned through six weeks of our inane questions and comments. None of us was comfortable asking any real questions, so the boys took turns raising their hands to say things only tangentially related to the subject, like, “One time, a girl I know put a tampon in the drinking fountain and turned on the water. That thing, like, exploded!”

The teacher handed out mimeographed diagrams of the male and female reproductive system, with arrows and spaces for us to label the various parts. The “vas deferens” jokes were always good for a laugh.

CIMG0507Then we each received an egg. We were supposed to carry this egg around everywhere and try not to break it or we’d get an F.

I did not get an F.

When I had my first child, I was so glad for that egg assignment; it totally prepared me for parenthood.

Well, except for the part where my daughter doesn’t just want to know how babies in general are made, but how her father and I made her and her brother.

“I know all about the sperm and the egg and cell division and all of that,” she said from the back seat of the car one weekend morning. “What I want to know is, how does it happen?”

My spouse makes fun of me for being a prude, but I didn’t hear him jumping in to fill the awkward silence that followed  this question.

We thought we had bypassed all of this awkwardness. Our denomination has a series of great human sexuality curricula for people from kindergarten through adulthood called Our Whole Lives, or OWL for short. Each set of classes includes information and discussions appropriate to the age of the class. I took the 2nd-grade version of the class with our daughter last year. We talked about relationships, families, and different ways that people can build families. Parents shared their children’s birth or adoption stories and brought in baby pictures to share with the class. The kids learned the proper names for their body parts, how to recognize inappropriate touching, and how to advocate for themselves.

And, at the very end of the class series, we talked about intercourse.

All of the classes had been great and challenging in their own ways, but I was nervous about this discussion. I knew our daughter knew about animal reproduction, but I wasn’t sure that she’d ever made the connection between other mammals and humans. As a liberated, modern woman, I wanted my daughter to have all of the information from a trusted source, but as a prude, I would have rather she just absorbed this information by osmosis.

The day of The Class, the teachers asked if anyone knew about intercourse. They didn’t ask that exact question. I was so nervous, I have completely forgotten what their question was, but that was the gist. My daughter, as usual, raised her hand and gave a concise and accurate answer to the question, using human terms for human parts and everything.

After the class, I asked her what she thought of OWL.

“It was okay, but it was all review.”

Well, then, I thought. That was a lot of worry for nothing.

But a year later, here my spouse and I were, vehemently avoiding making eye contact with each other in the front seat, while our daughter waited in the back seat for our answer.

I really hope they have an OWL for 3rd-graders soon. If they don’t have one for my daughter, I could really use one for myself. And I promise not to make vas deferens jokes this time.

Who am I kidding? No one can promise that.

Written for the Remember the Time Blog Hop.

4 Replies to “Outsourcing Sex Ed”

  1. I just remember a video with a cartoon sperm with a face. I’m pretty sure the ovaries had eye lashes & lipstick. Yeah. That was *super* helpful.


  2. Wow, your daughter’s school has quite the comprehensive program. That’s impressive. Although apparently not comprehensive enough to spare you from the awkward questions. Those are the WORST!! Thank God you didn’t flunk your egg project…imagine how bad it would be had that happened!


    1. It’s actually not her school but our church where we have this great program, but apparently some schools use it, too. I’m glad we have it; I think they’ll do a much better job than I would, egg or no egg.


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