What I Wish Sex Ed Had Taught Me (As a Queer Woman)
By KORA SCHULTZ
Let’s be real - many sex education curriculums leave a lot to be desired. In fact, as of 2017, only 24 states (and the District of Columbia) require sex education in schools, and only 13 of those states require sex education to be medically accurate.
With the vast majority of sex education curriculum focusing on heterosexual relationships, accurate LGBTQIA+ inclusive education is incredibly rare. This means that many queer folks enter their sexually active lives with more questions than answers. Trust me - I have been there. If you ever want to hear horror stories about sharp nails (ouch), lubricant mishaps (whoops), and difficult gynecologist visits, I am absolutely your gal. While awkward and clueless interactions are absolutely normal, a solid educational foundation should always be in the background. Many queer teenagers and young adults are missing this crucial piece.
Sex education left me in the dark, but fear not! You do not have to be as clueless as I was. Here at Harlot, we are dedicated to making sure you have a fully stocked toolkit to keep yourself (and your partners!) safe and empowered. With that being said, here are four things I wish sex ed had taught me, and what I believe you should know about them:
1. Sex Does Not Have To Equal Intercourse
As most educational conversations about sex are so focused on straight couples, our collective idea of what “counts” as sex is often very heteronormative and limited. For many people, “sex” equals intercourse aka vaginal or anal penetration by male genitalia. This is not a fully accessible definition, and it invalidates tons of sexual relationships. Sexual acts between cis queer women are especially invalidated by this definition, as they are less penetration focused and any major penetration utilizes toys and other inanimate objects. I could not even begin to count the number of times that I have heard people (especially straight men) refer to sex between female partners as “foreplay” or even “just mutual masturbation.” This is an absolutely absurd notion. There is no “right way” to have sex. Any sexual interaction that you have with your partner is valid. Your sexuality is valid!
2. Dental Dams Exist (And Are Important!)
Dental dams are nifty little pieces of latex (or polyurethane, in some cases) that don’t get nearly enough airtime. I had not even seen one in person until I was in college! In layman's terms, dental dams are condoms for your mouth. They protect against the spread of STIs through oral sex, whether it’s vaginal or anal focused. In the heat of the moment, it is easy to forget that penetrative sex is not the only way that STIs are spread. Genital herpes, gonorrhea, and even syphilis are just a few STIs that can be spread through mouth-to-genital contact. For women that sleep with women, dental dams are crucial; especially when “getting to know” new partners. Luckily, much like traditional condoms, dental dams come in many different flavors and can be super fun to use! Don’t want to spring for dental dams? Cutting up traditional condoms will do the trick - just be careful!
3. Same-Sex Couples Still Need To Get Tested
Speaking of oral sex and STIs, it is incredibly important to remember that every sexually active person needs to get tested for STIs regularly. This includes monogamous couples and same-sex couples - something that was not touched on at all in my high school sex ed course.
Many folks are aware that heterosexual penetration is not the only way to spread STIs but, with the exception of HIV/AIDS, it is rare that we talk about STIs in a LGBTQIA+ context. STIs can be easily spread through oral and anal sex. Further, sex via direct bodily contact is not the only way that STIs can be spread. Sharing toys - or failing to wash them thoroughly between partners - can also spread STIs and yeast infections. Even monogamous folks need to get tested regularly, as different STIs have different incubation times. For example, it can often take months before HIV is detectable. Regular STI testing is critical for keeping you and your partners safe, confident, and empowered!
4. Queer Sex and Mental Health Go Hand-in-Hand
While the connection between sex and mental health is by no means a “queer only” phenomenon, my queerness and sex life had a turbulent relationship for a very long time. The guilt, shame, and pure confusion of beginning an intimate same-sex relationship as a young adult can easily eclipse the bliss of exploration and love. I personally attribute much of this to a lack of representation within sex education and discussions of romantic relationships. While it is easy to internalize these feelings and allow them to fester, it is important to know that you are valid. You are normal, you are worthy of love and pleasure, and you are not alone. If you are looking for community and safe spaces to discuss your queerness and your mental health, you are welcome to contact me via my Instagram, or reach out directly to Harlot. If you would like to speak with a professional LGBTQIA+ focused mental health providers, The Trevor Project can be reached 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, or by texting TREVOR to 1-202-304-1200 Monday-Friday from 3pm-10pm EST.
We’re here, we’re queer, and we’re ready for LGBTQIA+ inclusive sex ed!
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KORA SCHULTZ - WRITER & EDUCATOR
Kora Schultz (they/them) is a loud, genderqueer, incredibly anxious sex education nerd from the swingin' Midwest. They are passionate about LGBTQIA+ inclusive sex ed, youth outreach, women's empowerment, and sex worker advocacy. Most of their free time is spent ranting (and writing) about these topics.
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