The lies sex education taught me

NEW WESTMINSTER (CUP) When I was in high school I trusted that the education I was receiving would be based on facts, especially when it came to important matters like sex. Unfortunately as I got older I discovered that a lot of stuff I learned in “sex education” just wasn’t true. So I’m here now to put your worries at ease, if you were worried about sex at all – which, given our young adult age demographic, you probably are.

The hymen myth. The hymen, otherwise known as the “maiden head” is a thin membrane that covers the opening of the vagina. In ye olden times, as well as in some more oppressive countries and lifestyles, people would check to make sure the hymen was intact in order to ensure that a girl was a virgin before marriage, or they would check after the wedding night to see if there was blood on the sheets. The blood comes from the hymen being broken or popped; hence the term “popping your cherry.” Nowadays the hymen doesn’t play a major role in sex ed. Basically all I was taught was that it existed, was delicate, and could be broken in any number of non-penetrative ways, such as biking or horseback riding.

Now for the truth: the hymen does not cover the opening of the vagina, at least not completely. The hymen is a membrane that covers only the top portion of the vaginal opening. This is why you can still be a virgin with an intact hymen, and menstruate. The size of the opening varies, some girls aren’t even born with a hymen at all, and others can retain it even after sex. Also that whole thing about the blood? Not necessary! The hymen is extremely flexible and can be stretched to accommodate sexual activity during foreplay, without any need for it to be “popped” or broken. And it’s definitely not a marker of virginity.

The oxytocin myth. I went to a fairly progressive high school, so I never experienced this particular miseducation, but I do know many who have. Oxytocin is a hormone released during child birth that helps mothers bond with their children. It is also released during sex in both partners to help with pair bonding and social recognition. In abstinence- based sex ed. programs, the teacher will inform the students that after sex the release of hormones will result in over-attachment, especially in women. The lesson is that for women, casual sex doesn’t exist.

I don’t think I really need to point out where the lie is here – I mean, this myth was constructed to blatantly deny or restrict feminine sexuality in order to slut-shame and scare students into not having sex.

So here are the facts: yes, oxytocin is released during sexual contact (not intercourse specifically). But the amounts are negligible and only increase during a prolonged relationship. So someone going out for a one-night stand will receive significantly less oxytocin than someone in a committed relationship. Oxytocin is also not something to be feared; in fact, studies now show that it might have a correlation with both the male and female orgasm.

So there you have it: a couple myths busted. I think it’s important to note that the current guidelines according to the BC Teachers’ Federation do not stipulate that a teacher must be formally educated in sexual health in order to teach it. Also, the current guidelines emphasize age appropriateness, which is never specifically defined within the guidelines themselves, and is instead left to the educator or the school’s discretion. What this means is that if a high school or community believes that it is never appropriate to teach teenagers about certain elements of sexual health, then they don’t have to – which is probably why there is so much misinformation going around.