I am often reflective of how I was educated around some of the most important subjects in my life; mainly about those that have shaped my perspectives of the world, over the course of time. It’s mostly because I derive inspiration from the examples I see around me and that creates an evolution in these said perspectives. 14 year old me was confident that I wanted to be married at 24 and “enjoy life with my spouse ’til we have kids.” 24-year old me takes immense pleasure in laughing at the hilarity of that teenager because my needs have changed. But when I looked back to a decade ago and examined the pieces of the jigsaw that led to that goal, I realized that those were the messages that I was surrounded by then, because they were the aspirations I saw my older cousins and relatives embody. It’s so important to monitor the nuanced changes in our opinions and values, right? So we can see how much we have trekked to reach our capacity of evolution.
Sex education was extremely poor. It was 80 of us in a classroom staring at a slideshow and giggling at the terminology used for genitals, and an embarrassed professor laying a disclaimer that anyone who laughed would need to leave the room immediately. I still remember the end of that presentation where we had to write our doubts and questions with the promise of anonymity on a sheet of paper so they could be addressed. Everyone had questions, but of course, only a sliver of the population handed over their questions in awkward silence. The hypocrisy was too ironic ― how is the cause for our existence in this world attached to so much shame?! I am sure most of us left that class with inadequate education and extreme apprehension about this hush-hush topic. Another lacking quality is that the presentation dwelled under the label of “reproductive education,” but it never addressed the act or even more importantly, the meaning, of consent. And how can you apply a concept to your life that you never knew existed?
Language. Sigh. It’s the most powerful weapon I can think of. Stronger than the forces of a nuclear war, even, because the causes of one are determined by the language used between people, countries, and communities. It’s the reason why “I love you” can make our cheeks red and “You’re a horrible person” can make our eyes teary. It takes the presence and absence of words, it uses the sounds and silences of our thoughts and the tugs and leeways of our opinions, our perspectives, our evolution of thought. If a community doesn’t use language to teach a child or adult about consent, that person becomes aware of abuse by experience within the body and with no vocabulary in the mind.
We all had a “peepee” while growing up. They were hidden under the zips of our pants and behind the curtains of our skirts, away from the light of the day, unaware of their synonyms in the world. Puberty came around and added more words to the dictionary. Let’s just pause to take this in. We’re talking about generations that grow up and learn about sex from internet porn, that learn about body/genital enhancements from TV shows and advertisements, that see themselves physically naked every day but do not have a functioning vocabulary for talking about the sexual parts of their own bodies. “Lady parts,” “cunt,” “pussy,” “weiner,” and “balls” is acceptable but say the word vagina and the temperatures fall drastically for everyone to have a chill down their spine and a cringe on their forehead. Think about it. What are the things we mask from the world? The actions we’re ashamed of, parts of ourselves that we’ve no pride in ― well, body odor and our secret habit of picking our noses, too, and the natural being of our sexuality. The biggest problem with not addressing something for what it is, or dismissing its existence, is that you give it the ammo of shame which almost criminalizes its existence. It’s why our response to rape is so often concerned with what one was wearing, rather than the crime that was committed; why men and women ignore their sexual health because they are embarrassed to seek help from professionals for the fear of judgment for their sexual tendencies.
Our bodies are so magical and it fascinates me to see that as I am writing this in this moment, my brain is automatically aware of what has to be done next, my heart is involuntarily beating to keep me alive and my blood is marathoning its way through different veins. Our bodies are beautiful, they are changing all the time as we progress in age; and if we don’t learn more about all of its nitty-grittys with the same majestic wonder, we discriminate how we treat ourselves. The responsibility of sex education is not only on the institutions that are designed to educate children and teenagers, but also on how the influential individuals in their everyday lives educate and empower them.
It’s only then that they can command respect and not learn lessons of shame, and we can be reminded of the same.