Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
A piece on sex ed came across my screen yesterday — touching mainly on how bad we are at teaching our children about sex. This sent me on a nostalgic trip to the not-so-distant past (this is not true: it was a long time ago), when sex education came to my junior high school and plowed over us innocents like a freight train. A very phallic-looking freight train.
It’s sad that our culture hasn’t figured things out yet. We got terribly shitty sex education in the ’70s, and apparently it’s no different today.
For whatever reason, at Mehlville Junior High (St. Louis, MO), in the spring of 1970, the solemn duty of teaching these impressionables all about sex was handed over to the gym teachers. This, to me, seems a mistake, and in retrospect I wonder if Mr. Mohatchee might have given us bad information here and there, because I’ve learned the hard way over the years that sex is where babies come from. Doh!
The twenty or thirty boys in my gym class — in which I never excelled, so to Mr. Mohatchee I was a nonentity — were assembled on the school stage in rows of folding chairs. The red stage curtain had been drawn closed, and being crammed in that small space with all those boys made me feel like I was trapped in a large surreal womb. Mr. Mohatchee presided, standing beside a slide-show screen. It was going to get graphic. “Boys,” he said, “you’re about to get your minds blown.”
Of course, in sex ed back then, and presumably now, they’re obsessed with the cellular stuff, the sperms, eggs, zygotes, nuclei, &c, and that meant we were treated to slide after slide of blurry membrane penetrations and diagrams of lady parts. The lady parts looked to us like some kind of diabolical maze, which. I’m just saying.
The man parts were easy to understand, though none of the diagrams ever showed the key man part in anything but a kind of hang-dog mood. We already knew what it was capable of. We were twelve. We’d seen some things.
But then Mr. Mohatchee shifted gears. “Disease!” he said. “Syphilis! Gonorrhea! You go mad, boys. It eats the brain and turns it into Shredded Wheat. This is what premarital sex will get you, understand?” And he showed us a series of slides with moist, bloody wounds. “Chancres, boys. You want your body caked with chancres?”
Another slide followed, showing a brain eaten through like an ant farm. “Syphilitic brain,” said the caption.
Never mind that syphilis was curable by then. Penicillin. He should have been hammering into our heads that pregnancy was a million times more likely than catching a medieval disease like syphilis.
“How does the siflis get into your body?” asked one brave lad, and Mohatchee was livid.
“How do you think, you dimwit! You got a hole in the end of your wang, don’tcha?”
And it deteriorated from there.
The sad thing is, we all get our sex education eventually. From books, videos, or just on-the-job training.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could teach our tweens about the birds n’ bees without screwing them up for life?