Learning more than just the birds and bees
Young adults can enrich their knowledge about sex outside the classroom
By Emma Shular
Sex educators say young adults are learning more about sex on their own than they are during high school sex education courses.
Dee Stacey, a certified sexual health educator, has taught young adults in Vancouver since 2018. She said young adults’ sex education has many gaps because teachers are uncomfortable with talking about sex.
“If you can get somebody in there that is comfortable talking about bodies and body fluids and what sex actually is
. . . then hopefully that can have a lasting impact on just somebody’s general ability to become a young adult and explore the world in the way that they want to, ” Stacey said.
In B.C. high schools, sex education is mandatory up until Grade 10, but focuses more on sexually transmitted infections and abstinence than consent and pleasure. A 2019 study done by the non-profit organization Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights says the amount and quality of sex education students receive differs from school to school based on where students live, the local school board and the amount of community health support. The study says that provincial governments aren’t giving young adults adequate access to “the sexual health information and skills-building opportunities they are entitled to.”
Dr. Lori Brotto, a licensed psychologist and UBC professor who specializes in women’s sexual health, says that she often sees clients who have gotten a majority of their information from unreliable sources.
“We really don’t have adequate, comprehensive, gender-sensitive, trauma-informed sex education in our schools. Because of that people do turn to the internet, or they’ll, you know, flip open a magazine and that becomes a source of information about sexual health for a lot of people,” Brotto said.
Brotto said that many of the questions she gets from clients could have been answered by a more thorough sex education.
“There’s so many different things that could have been addressed through good sex ed,” said Brotto.
Ways to fill gaps
First year Langara biology student Davis Macphail said a lot of what he was taught in school about sex was more anatomy than anything practical.
“They didn’t cover how to have safe sex or anything like that. It was all like, how the physiological changes that happened during puberty and the ovulation cycle and all that,” said Macphail.
Macphail said a lot of the gaps left in his education were filled by his mother, but other students didn’t have the resources they may have needed.
“I didn’t go to in-person school, I did mostly online learning, so there was a very wide range of people that went. So, you’d have people that their parents didn’t teach them anything and people [whose parents taught them] like me,” he said.
Georg Barkas, a Vancouver shibari instructor, said that misinformation on the internet is misleading young adults and leaving them without guidance in exploring a wider scope of sexual experiences.
“People don’t know how to judge information that is out there so you can . . . end up with some [online] pages that might teach a complete bullshit,” Barkas said.