What I wish I'd learnt in Sex Ed class

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"If I could go back and ask a few questions with the knowledge and experience I have now as a 21 year old, this is what I would ask," writes contributor Jasmine Higgins.

'Here’s a condom. Put it on this banana.' 

'Don’t do drugs. You will die.' 

'This is a diagram of a vagina. Circle the cervix.' (The clitoris is not important.) 

This is all I can remember from all of my PDHPE (Personal Development, Health and Physical Education) classes at my all-girls high school.

If I could go back and ask a few questions with the knowledge and experience I have now as a 21-year-old woman, this is what I would ask:

  • How do I set boundaries before and during sex?
  • What do I do and who do I talk to straight after being raped?
  • What kinds of serious side effects do contraceptive methods really have and when should I see a doctor about them?
  • How do I navigate workplace sexism and misogyny?
  • How do I call out sexism when I see it without putting myself in an unsafe position?
  • What do I need to know about abortion?
  • How do I know when I’m in an emotionally and mentally manipulative relationship?
  • How do I get out of a physically abusive relationship?
  • What do I do if I’m attacked walking alone at night?

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Teaching consent from an early age can have long-lasting, positive effects, says educator Deanne Carson.
Teaching consent from an early age can have long-lasting, positive effects, says educator Deanne Carson.

As a young, naive teenager, it hadn’t occurred to me that part of growing up would involve asking myself some of the above questions. I wasn’t aware yet that one in five women will experience sexual assault in their lifetimes. I wasn’t aware of the dynamics of consent in the bedroom. I didn’t know how to identify when a partner was potentially toxic and dangerous. Of course, myself and practically every woman around me, had to develop the answers to these hard questions.

But why was part of the growing-up process discovering and learning about the above issues through first-hand experience?

I had to endure four months of severe anxiety, depression and at some points suicidal thoughts before I found out my mental state was being affected by the contraceptive pill I was taking. 

I should have been told in high school that possible bad reactions to the pill include blood clots in the lungs and thighs. This shouldn't have been something I learned after buying the pill and reading through the fine print. 

I’ve witnessed women around me in abusive relationships who have had enough personal knowledge and skills to eventually break free, but what happens to those who are unaware? How would they have handled their situation differently if they were equipped with the tools and information to know what rights they have in the bedroom, and when and how to escape from a toxic relationship?

We shouldn't have to rely on ‘life experience’ to learn how to deal with some of life's toughest situations. We deserve an education system that prepares girls for what it's like to be a woman. 

This article does not present the importance of also educating young men on consent and being allies to women - an equally vital part of PDHPE Education. If you are a young man, we want to hear from you mystory@sbs.com.au

Jasmine Higgins is currently an undergraduate film student at the University of New South Wales. Her fields of interest include feminism and sociology.” 

Source SBS Insight

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