The sex education I received in high school back in the 1960’s made me more confused than educated me. I am an older student; I graduated high school in 1972. No, that is not a typo but is 1972.
Sex education has come a long way from its inception. Sex education was first started in schools in the 1920’s but didn’t become mainstream until the 1960’s. The education I received was before sex education became mandatory. the California Healthy Youth Act passed in 2015 requires comprehensive sex education at middle school and high school levels.
What I remember of my formal sex education in school was two movies and a session with the gym teacher. The movies were dated even then, and went through the science of the sperm fertilizing the egg, but never went into any detail about how the sperm and egg get together. One of the movies also had information about changing bodies during puberty and menstruation. I left the class more confused than before the class. I was naive, but for a long time I thought a woman could get pregnant just by the penis being in the area of the vaginal such as during clothed dancing if the boy and girl were very close. I did not know about ejaculation.
I also remember the gym teacher taking my male gym class into the locker room and discussed venereal disease. During the class the gym teacher said that you can get a VD in the mouth and asked if we knew how. One of the more vocal students answered with a slang word for oral sex. The teacher replied that “yes”, and that “some girls will do this disgusting act.”
The girls got different sex education, I remember in 6th and 7th grade all the girls would leave class and go to the all purpose room. I also wanted to go as they missed whatever class was in session then. It turns out the girls were given instruction on menstruation during those sessions.
Topics such as alternate lifestyles, sexual orientation sexual abuse, birth control, prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and other topics were not discussed.
This is the extent of my sex education in the 1960’s as I remember which is ironic as this was during the summer of love on the west coast (I lived on the east coast at this time). I was naive about sex and my sex education did not help. For example when I was kissing a girl and she stuck her tongue in my mouth, I was shocked and confused. In high school when I was doing some heavy petting with a girl, she was wet. My initial thought was “did she pee herself?” as my sex education did not cover this.
So where did I get my sex education, on the street of course through friends, older brother and other students. There were also a few books, one I remember was “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask)” by David Reuben. The book was in the form of questions. The book was well received then as it was number one on the bestseller list. However, the book also had its critics as some of the advice in the book was questionable. One item I remember from the book was a recommended form of birth control: to use Coca-Cola as a douche afterwards as the acid in the soda would kill the sperm.
Compare what I received as sex education to what students get today. In California the Education Code has very specific requirements that must be taught, at least once in junior high/middle school and once in high school. The purpose of the California Healthy Youth Act is to provide pupils with the knowledge and skills necessary to protect their sexual and reproductive health from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections and from unintended pregnancy and To provide pupils with the knowledge and skills they need to develop healthy attitudes concerning adolescent growth and development, body image, gender, sexual orientation, relationships, marriage, and family
The code requires a comprehensive education covering many topics including HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, information on abstinence, all methods of birth control, parenting, adoption and abortion, sexual harassment, sexual abuse and human trafficking and violent relationships. Information on local resources must also be given.
Rebecca Henderer, a former LPC student who transferred to Grand Canyon University, opted out of sex education in middle school due to her mother pulling her out.. At Livermore Valley Charter Preparatory High Schools which has since closed, she took the class in the summer which consisted mostly of reading a book and answering questions on worksheets. Henderer did say that she felt awkward during the class, she remembers condoms being mentioned, but not other forms of birth control. Henderer learned more about sex education after high school and specifically mentioned two classes at LPC (Intro to Psychology and Abnormal Psychology) that covered alternate life styles. LPC has two classes, while are not specifically sex education but cover sexualtity: PSYC 10, Psychology of Human Sexuality and SOC 7, Sociology of Sexuality.
Sadie Spektor who attended high school at Santa Clara High said she does not remember much from the junior high sessions, but was taught in high school in various forms including videos, lectures, guest speakers and interactive games. Spektor did say that she was a little annoyed as the classes only cover male and female and did not explore other types of relationships. Spektor also stated she first got education in menstruation in the fifth grade.
What is still not taught is how to have sex, foreplay, masturbation or intercourse. Henderer said that she does not remember any instruction at school on menstruation, that she learned about from her mother. Perhaps the state needs to revisit the sex education topics.
Alan Lewis is the photo editor of The Express. Follow him @alolewis1.