What High Schools Should Teach in Sex Ed

In high school, my sex ed was what you would call minimal. Since Texas firmly believes in abstinence-only education (which so doesn’t work – my high school had a day care program for crying out loud!), I consider myself very lucky that I had a very open-minded mother who taught me about sex. And now that I’m in college, by far my favorite class this semester is my human sexuality class where my professor is not only incredibly funny, but very insightful. All of this along with some personal experience leads me to the conclusion that, well, sex ed of all kinds suck.

Here’s what they should be teaching high schoolers in order to better prepare them.

1. Sex should be between two people, not two egos
The best piece of advice from my human sexuality professor so far this semester has been, “sex isn’t a show. You shouldn’t be getting performance anxiety because it’s not a performance, so stop making it one.This is so true. Sex should be about enjoying yourself, not about how you look or how you’re doing or anything else that you’re anxious about. No one looks good during sex, and if you’re doing something your partner doesn’t like, chances are they’ll tell you in a non-offensive way. Sex is supposed to be fun, so relax!

2. It’s a sign of maturity to ask what your partner likes
No two people are exactly the same, so why should their sexual tastes be? It shouldn’t be embarrassing to talk about what you like in bed. No one knows what you like or what you don’t like better than you. We shouldn’t be turning to Cosmo or our friends for sex advice, we should be asking our partners.

3. Sex isn’t all it’s cracked up to be
Yes, sex feels good. However, I feel that most high school kids think it’s the end all be all, but that’s just the hormones talking. You really don’t feel that different after losing your virginity. You get dressed, and go about your day. So if you’re not having sex and it feels like everyone else you know is, it’s not the end of the world.

4. Gay Sex is Still Sex
It really bothers me that people still don’t respect homosexual relationships. Just because you don’t approve of what they’re doing, doesn’t mean you can just completely ignore them. Gays and lesbians have sex too, so why aren’t they being taught about sexual health and education? Why can’t we have a program that teaches about all aspects of sex, not just penis in vagina sex?

5. How to Say No
Sex should be between two people who love and trust each other, but sadly that’s not always the case. I feel like girls, including myself and some of my friends, get pressured into sex sometimes. Whether it’s because you’re not ready or you just don’t feel that way about someone, everyone should learn how to say no when they’re uncomfortable. What really got to me in high school was the girls I knew who got pregnant simply because their boyfriend just didn’t want to wear a condom. If your guy doesn’t want to wrap it up, then tell him to put his pants back on! It’s one thing to teach kids how to use a condom, but we also need to make sure they actually use them.

Sadly, I know that these won’t be implemented to any curriculum anytime soon; people in America tend to refuse to see teenagers as sexual beings, even though we hit our sexual peaks at 16. It’s almost borderline cruel to expect the horniest people on the planet to stay fully dressed with each other. I just know that I’ll be like my mom in that whenever I have teenage kids, they’re going to know everything they need to know to have safe, enjoyable sex.



    1. Lily says:

      Great, insightful article. It brings out these different aspects of sex that high school & college kids forget.

    2. Audrina says:

      Very good article! Totally agree with number 4.

      1. pat says:

        you probably would you ugly man looking butch

    3. […] Here's what they should be teaching high schoolers in order to bigger prepare them. Glance at more… […]

    4. I agree with #4 and #5, but the rest of this isn't something I believe can be taught. It would be helpful if more magazines, such as Cosmo, addressed sex in such mature and practical terms as this article does. It would also, most likely, be more effective than sticking a teacher up in front of a class of bored, emotionally immature high schoolers and having him/her try to drill this into their head. These are the sort of conclusions people need to come to on their own, though society at large could help them by being more honest and sex-positive.

    5. Alison says:

      I think that sex ed should focus on STD and pregnancy prevention. Additionally, teenagers should know that sex is NOT rebellious and it's nothing to be ashamed of. I feel like many people in high school have sex because they think it's a rebellious act.

      Teens should know that if they aren't having sex for pleasure, then they shouldn't be having sex at all. Education on the emotional consequences would benefit them and give more perspective. And instead of advocating abstinence, high schools should be more honest and admit that it's actually a healthy and pleasurable experience within a committed relationship.

      1. Sarah says:

        Couldn't agree more and in the spirit of sex not being anything to be ashamed of, I think discussions of healthy dynamics within relationships would be appropriate within a similar context. Obviously you can't teach people how to interact with each other in a class room alone but I think mature discussions can help encourage young people to actually think about these issues.

    6. […] In high school, my sex ed was what you would call minimal. Since Texas firmly believes in abstinence-only education (which so doesn't work – my high school had a day care program for crying out loud!), I consider myself very lucky that I had a very open-minded mother who taught me about sex. And now that I'm in college, by far my favorite class this semester is my human sexuality class where my professor is not only incredibly funny, but very ins … Read More […]

    7. […] College Candy, What High Schools Should Teach in Sex Ed […]

    8. Shelby says:

      Great article! My school didn't cover sex ed at all but I wish they had handed this out to my classmates! We called "senioritis" meaning you were pregnant (it always seemed to happen to the seniors)!

      1. kamal says:

        good and nice thought, but it is not compulserry in school education

    9. I actually wrote a paper for my English class last semester about how schools need to start putting in comprehensive sex education programs into the curriculum. And personally, I think we should start young, because younger and younger girls are sex and probably most of the reason is they don't know what to expect and what the consequences are. No, don't teach first graders about sex. That's not what I'm saying. But I remember in fifth grade when we watched "the movie", which explained to us what was happening with our bodies, I didn't feel like I got the full information and I found out about everything I needed to know through the Internet, my mother's old "Human Sexuallity" textbook from college, a book the American Girl put out-which still didn't explain a lot to me, and my friends-guys and girls alike. But I think putting a better sex education program into high schools will help. Some comprehensive programs that are out there show that the students who take them are less likely to have unprotected sex or sex altogether before the age of 16. Also, sex abstinence programs also show that teens are MORE likely to have sex. Abstinence is a choice, yes, but people need to give the information and not just give Bible words.

      1. Jenna says:

        This is so true. Alot of evidence clearly shows that the sooner you start teaching/talking about sex with young people the better in terms of outcome (i.e. less teen pregnancy and STDs). You should be teaching this stuff well in advance of the kids actually having to use it.

        I think even first graders can have lessons that will eventually develop into sex-ed when they're older. Like in first grade you can learn the difference between girls and boys bodies but obviously you don't need to be explicit or even broach the subject of sex. I think having had lessons like these when their younger teachers could gradually introduce more advance subjects a bit more naturally.

    10. NikkiL36 says:

      Great article!! I wholeheartedly agree. And like the author, I was blessed with a great Mom who set limits, but was realistic and open about sexuality. I think most sex-ed does such a disservice to teens by only teaching them the mechanics (insert slot A into slot B – ha ha), and not the whole picture. Yes, sex can be dangerous(if you're not careful), embarrassing (everyone has one of those stories:) and stressful (being naked with someone – that's stress!), but it's also fun, pleasurable and intimate. If you think about it, it's a bit hypocritical and unrealistic: Sex is used to sell EVERYTHING (and lot of it is marketed to teens), but you don't want them to put what they see and are bombarded with into practice. How does that make sense? The fact is, sex is not a shameful activity, but it is one that needs to be handled responsibly, safely and respectfully in order to be fully enjoyed.

      I find it interesting that we invest more time in teaching teens to drive, and avoid drugs and alcohol but not to fully educate them about the good and bad of sexuality and sexual behavior. Think about it: There are plenty of adults that don't know how to drive (especially if you live on the East Coast like I do), don't drink and never touched illegal drugs. But I'm fairly certain all of them have had sex (at least once, and most likely before they were married:). Just saying.

    11. […] Teachers could make sex-ed classes way more beneficial. (College Candy) […]

    12. Jenna says:

      See unfortunately this article is written by a woman,..and worse still, a white woman,..Now who can honestly tell me that ANY of those finely balanced an v. good and indeed true points, have EVER been associated with black people and how 'they' regard sex to be,…perhaps if this woman had slept with a black man,{which incedently just of instinct I can guarantee she hasn't slept with more than 1} this article would be vastly different,..

      1. Christina says:

        I really don't see how race should have any matter in this article. Sex is sex. It doesn't matter what color skin you have. Those tips should still apply regardless.

      2. Guest says:

        There are so many assumptions in your post. These points apply to every race. Yes, not all people have the same experience but this article, once again, is universal and isn't bound by race. Just in case your wondering, i'm black.

      3. Jenna says:

        So your claiming that black people have a completely different view about sex and relationships than white people? This is ridiculous. Every couple has a unique relationship regardless of race but there are certain general similarities between any functioning relationship and these are the points that the author of the article is focusing on.

    13. jaynn says:

      Along with how to say 'no', how about how to take 'no' for an answer? While it's good to learn how to resist the pressure to have sex, it would be better if that pressure was never there at all.

    14. Taya says:

      This Article Is Amazing! You should defiantly consider being a writer. You defiantly have a way with words and should use that gift! You have that talent where you can just say something and catch peoples attention.

    15. Hannah says:

      Being queer myself I'm totally agreeing on the point about gay sex, but what people don't often consider is that it would benefit straight students as well. Sex ed programs usually only cover penile-vaginal penetrative sex, while there are definitely straight kids out there who are trying oral and anal sex as well, and who don't know that they can, say, catch an awful thing like oral chlamydia via blowjob, because no one ever tells them about it.

    16. JohnnyRiden says:

      Generally good article. The only one that isn't good or true is #4. I can't get past the logical conclusion that sex serves the primary goal of reproducing and feeling good/any of the positive benefits from sex only exist to make people want it so we all don't die off. With that said I can't say oral,anal,etc can be considered sex either and by with all that, gay sex between 2 men or 2 women is not actually sex.

      1. Jenna says:

        You just seem to be quibbling about semantics. By your definition, sex which is protected by contraception isn't sex either. In an over populated world the very last problem of humanity is it dying off due to lack of reproductive sex. There are many sexual acts which cannot result in a baby but all play the same role in bringing pleasure and increasing intimacy in a relationship. They also carry similar dangers in terms of STD's and possible emotional problems. Therefore it makes to deal with these issues together in the context of education.

      2. JohnnyRiden says:

        Your perception is wrong. By my definition, protected sex is still sex since it meets 1 important criteria and one that's more or less irrelevant, which is the example you brought up with "my definition". Protected heterosexual sex doesn't promise 100% safety from getting pregnant so the possibility of getting knocked up still exists, which is untrue for gay,oral,anal, etc sex. All of them are sexual acts ,but don't fit the definition for sex. The actual important piece though is that none of those acts are capable of making children without some very weird practices and just impossible with gay couples. Pleasure,intimacy, and std's again are irrelevant to the definition of sex, sex ed? Sure why not. I repeat, oral,anal, gay, etc sex do not meet the criteria for sex and shouldn't be defined as such.

      3. Jenna says:

        Well obviously you can define sex in a way which excludes gay couples. What is the relevance of this? I assume you don't think infertile people as capable of having sex then? Or post menopausal women? Sexual relationships involve two people who are attracted to each other being intimate and giving each other pleasure. The clear implication of point 4 in the article is that sex (or sexual acts if you insist on being obtuse) in a homosexual relationships are just as important as those in a heterosexual one, and apart from the risk of pregnancy, involve the same dangers.

        Homosexual teenagers require education about the relationships they will enter than heterosexual teenagers. The vast majority of sex particularly for high school aged children does not result in a baby, and nor does it intend to.

      4. JohnnyRiden says:

        Is a car still a car if the engine doesn't work? You assume wrong once again. A sexual relationship doesn't mean sex. You can have a sexual relationship and not have sex. I'm not defining anything, sex has a definition and that definition excludes gay, oral,anal etc sexual acts. If aliens come along and engage in sexual acts with people, I would say the exact same thing, it isn't sex and can't be. Shooting yourself in the head and getting shot in the head by someone else have the same dangers ,but are drastically different scenarios and involve different risks IE teenagers who engage in heterosexual vs homosexual sex acts.

    17. drizle9 says:

      i think they should be taught straight facts.
      absintence is the only way to keep from getting pregnant or stds
      and then how/what if anything can help prevent these things.
      I've always been careful but didn't understand all the facts and now I'm living with disease from sleepin with an infected partner. Not many people know or understand the ease of transmission.

      1. Jenna says:

        The evidence shows that abstinence only sex education means that students are just as likely to have sex but less likely to protect themselves. This leads to higher numbers of unplanned pregnancy and disease. So no not a very good idea.

    18. Marissa says:

      Yeah sex ed leaves a lot of young kids thinking they know everything about sex–like my little sisters. Nowhere in their sex ed class did they teach them that sex was pleasurable, or that masturbating was more than touching yourself, and my parents find sex an embarrassing topic to discuss with us. I discovered these things largely on my own, but it took my sister a shocking Internet photo for the pleasure aspect to click, and the younger one is still in the dark. I really don't want them to find out the hard way all that sex involves and thinking it's abnormal or disgusting, or embarrass themselves.
      I am not allowed by my parents to share my sexual knowlege with them, even though they are twelve and fourteen, so I really wish schools would teach more about this so that they can make the right sexual choices and not get into any bad situation because of their ignorance.

    19. mikey says:

      so why isnt it a great idea to have sex outside of marriage????

    20. Sien says:

      I would say that you're absolutely right…. I'm a Canadian from Quebec (so forgive me for my not-so-good english please) and here, we have a sex ed. course at the beginning of our high school years and until we go to college… And we tend to be taught alot of things on the risks that are to be taken and the different sides of sex (like gay sex, oral, anal, sex for pleasure, sex for love, how to respect yourself and say "no" if you don't want to have sex)… So I always thought (sorry about it) that saying "the only safe sex is abstinence" is particularly stupid… (anyway what do you do after that when you get married? Not a case of abstinence now heh?)

    21. NeoDra says:

      if the sex issues be showed directly, that would be sucks

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