We must break our culture of sex shame

Photo Credit: Phoebe Lim

I was never given “the talk” while growing up. Not once did my parents even off-handedly bring the topic up, let alone sit me down and explain what sex and sexuality was. Looking back as an adult, the lack of sex education and openness about the subject is one of the only elements of my childhood that I wish had been drastically different.

While in school, I was given a fair share of sex education. During elementary school, we were shown age-suitable puppets that taught us about private parts and inappropriate touching. In contrast, while in high school I was assigned a shame-inducing project where we were given bonus marks for finding and showing the most grotesque pictures of STIs to the class.

So, I had a mix of both the good and bad in school.

Meanwhile, at home the conversation was nonexistent. No one ever explained to me what menstruation was, or how to deal with it. No one ever introduced any form of relationship other than the monogamous, heterosexual standard. No one ever told me that becoming sexual was okay. This all made me feel very alone and scared.

No one ever told me that becoming sexual was okay, and this all made me feel alone and scared.

Growing up, I was forced to navigate through these confusing questions and, propelled by my curiosity, taught myself some of the answers. It took a while to fill in the holes that were left by my patchy schooling, which even left me a little ashamed and embarrassed.

Sex education should be taught more thoroughly and efficiently in schools and by parents; it needs to be a constant conversation that evolves as a child matures. In order to break the culture of shame that surrounds sex, we need to be able to have open conversations where educators are well equipped and open to answering any and all types of questions.

We can’t keep using fear tactics, denial, shame, and even lies to continue to suppress school-aged sexualities. To discount people’s experiences and feelings will only lead to the spread of false information, and more unwarranted shame associated with sex.

Let’s break this culture of sex-shame by being honest, open, and above all, curious.