My adolescent experience with sex education is probably best encapsulated by a rather infamous video known as The Miracle of Life. Ah, The Miracle of Life… it sounds so beautiful and wholesome, doesn’t it? Its title evokes a G-rated, Disney-ified view of “the birds and the bees,” that remarkable process of human creation. “Surely, this video can’t be as bad as its reputation,” I thought as my teacher struggled for nearly half an hour to master the complex technology of a VCR and a color TV.
Well, I was wrong. Oh god, was I wrong.
Ten minutes later, after repeated viewings of a sexual climax via a camera placed inside the vagina, a rather, um… how can I put this… hirsute woman (AWFUL REPRESSED MEMORY ALERT) birthed a screaming, writhing mass of flesh and goo. “Nooooo!” screamed several of my classmates, our naiveté and innocence trampled upon like an unfortunate Black Friday shopper. “Turn it off! Please turn it off!”
Of course, the goal of The Miracle of Life and various other Sex Ed. materials is to simultaneously educate and scare the living crap out of stupid teenagers. And I think that is a totally valid service — for all its problems, my high school had no teenage pregnancies that I can remember. Sex Ed., though awkward and uncomfortable, is certainly a better alternative than leaving students in the dark and expecting them to grapple with issues like sexuality and pregnancy on their own. But I can’t help but look back on my middle and high school health classes and cringe at some of the more effectively traumatizing experiences.
For example, I vividly remember an extremely graphic and unsettling slideshow about STDs that my 11th grade health teacher showed us. While informative, that slideshow has prevented me from ever truly enjoying intercourse or even the mere sight of male or female genitalia. It has also caused me to place entire rolls of toilet paper on the seats of public restroom toilets (to the point where I’m practically gift wrapping my waste).
My 8th grade health teacher was actually a pretty cool guy, though. He would never make us perform a relay race where we correctly placed condoms on wooden pegs (another activity led by my emotionally disturbed 11th grade teacher). He didn’t mind when I wrote my name as Urethra Franklin on a test that I knew I was going to fail. He even taught me where the vas deferens is (Side Note: Yes, vas deferens is a singular phrase, the plural for which is apparently vasa deferentia — the thrill of copy editing).
Previously, I had thought the vas deferens were a family of oil tycoons in the mid-19th century. Thankfully, my 8th grade health teacher taught me that the vas deferens are actually a family of 19th century oil tycoons that live in my penis. Or something very similar to that, I can assure you — I spent most of my time looking in our textbook for pictures of boobs and hoping we would have a Show and Tell day.
This teacher (let’s call him Mr. Vas Deferens) even managed to spend an entire period explaining to all of the girls in the class that blue balls is a real problem and that they shouldn’t accuse guys of making it up. Considering that we were a mob of unruly 13-year-olds who reacted to the word “penis” like Jimmy Fallon did to every single joke made during one of his SNL sketches, I think Mr. Vas Deferens acquitted himself very well — with a few exceptions.
One such exception involved forcing us to walk in a straight line while wearing a pair of convoluted glasses that warped our vision. This curious experiment was supposed to simulate being drunk; unfortunately, it led me to believe that getting drunk felt kind of like riding the Gravitron one too many times at the fair. If he wanted to give us an accurate representation of underage drinking, he should have had us play three games of Beer Pong and then spend the next four hours crying on the bathroom floor. Or, perhaps he could’ve shown us how smoking weed leads directly to decreasing grades and increased time watching SpongeBob SquarePants reruns — information would’ve been very helpful to me as I entered high school.
A particularly noteworthy flaw in Mr. Vas Deferens teaching came during the contraceptive unit. On one hand, I do remember him explaining dental dams and vaginal condoms the way your 8th grade history teacher explains the cotton gin: At no point in your life will you ever encounter this, and neither has anyone born after the Great Depression, but it’s in the textbook and I have to mention it. Yet, for some godforsaken reason, I left that classroom and spent the next several years of my life under the impression that latex and lambskin condoms were the Coke and Pepsi of contraceptives. Seriously, I thought they were equal alternatives; a polarizing debate, like grape or strawberry jelly, Nirvana or Pearl Jam, and Armageddon or Deep Impact (grape, Nirvana, and neither, by the way). I realized that latex condoms were the more popular of the two, but he made it seem like lambskin condoms were a quirky but valid option, like being a vegetarian or getting cremated. I had no idea that most civilized people react to lambskin condoms the way I react to Tyler Perry: How does this still exist? Do people like this? Why God, why?
(Side note #2: I guess lambskins condoms are a sensible option for people who are allergic to latex, right behind the option where they don’t ejaculate into the skin of a freaking lamb. It’s a close second though.)
Thankfully, I did not speak to a girl during all four of my high school years (even my mom interacted with me solely via hand signals). If not, I could have had an awkward first sexual experience, wherein I offered the girl a choice between latex and lambskin like I was asking, “Coffee or tea?” Then again, I’m not even sure where you get a lambskin condom. Mr. Vas Deferens never explained that, but one would have to assume that the answer is your local shepherd.