Why Kids in Montana (and Everywhere Else) Need Decent Sex Ed

The capital of my home state of Montana is making national headlines for a totally wild concept: comprehensive and age-appropriate sex education starting in kindergarten. The Helena school board was inundated with protests from concerned parents at their curriculum meeting in early July.

According to the AP, the controversial parts of Helena’s program include teaching kindergartners anatomical terms such as penis and vagina, telling first-graders about same-gender relationships and letting fifth graders know that sexual intercourse includes vaginal, oral, or anal penetration. They would also learn about homophobia and gender roles.

As a graduate of a public school in rural Montana, I am amazed at how forward-thinking the Helena school district is being. Montana state regulations on sex education require teaching about abstinence and HIV/AIDS but little else, which means students can get really terrible sex education. Like I did.

My first experience with sex-ed was in my sophomore health class in high school (and you can bet plenty of my classmates were already sexually active.) Our conservative Christian gym teacher told us that we should not have premarital sex, that gay sex was unnatural and physically harmful, and that if we girls got raped we should sit in a bathtub of cold water to prevent pregnancy. This was 2004. I have no doubt that kids are still getting taught such outright lies somewhere today.

Here’s what I don’t get about parents who don’t want their kids to learn about sex: Do they not want their kids to be happy, healthy adults? Do they not remember becoming sexually active themselves?

Here’s what blogger North Shore Dad wrote about the Helena sex-ed proposal, expressing utter shock that fifth graders should learn about oral sex:

I mean really, at ten years old most girls don’t even like boys yet. Are they really ready to be told that they can be used as a human popsicle?

First off, yeah dude, I did learn about blow jobs when I was 10 years old, thanks to the extensive media coverage of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. And secondly, I’m really glad I learned what oral sex was several years before I was presented with that situation.

Kids will hear about sex. They will eventually grow up to be sexually active adults. Even the most overprotective parent cannot stop it. I was smart enough to research information on my own, but the first time I had a decent sex talk was a mandatory seminar in my freshman year of college. If I had kids, I absolutely would not want them to learn about sex the same way I did. Not all teenagers educate themselves about sex, like I did. And what are the consequences of being horny and misinformed? Pregnancy. STDs. And being utterly confused the first time you try to have sex.

So I really hope the Helena school board doesn’t back down on their proposed sex ed program, and I hope more schools in Montana follow the lead. It will be a great day when American children are given accurate, honest information.

ABOVE: The birds do it, the bees do it… Photos from Flickr users mikebaird and nikonvscanon. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0


  1. Parents worried that educating kids about sex will lead to the kids having sex are really just burying their heads in the sand.

    I probably knew more about sex as a kid than most of my peers did, and yet I was one of the few who did not have sex in high school.

    Most high schools (and a lot of middle schoolers) will have sex, regardless of what you tell them. And those who choose not to have sex for whatever reasons (better things to do, religious reasons, saving it for later, etc.) will probably not have sex no matter what you educate them about. In fact, getting into the explicit details about it when they are young may just gross them out.

  2. Tom Vitale says:

    I did not have school sex education. I first heard about sex when I was less than 10 years old. An older boy told me and 2-3 other boys, walking down the street how to "F—" a girl. It sounded utterly sexist to me. Like he had absolutely NO respect for females. Or himself !!

  3. Tom Vitale says:

    I never thought sensible sex-ed classes led to greater “experimentation”. The media and peer pressures cause teens to “have sex”—and get pregnant.
    “Sensible” means teaching the anatomy, biology, health, disease prevention. It does not mean encouraging teens to have sex and it does not mean telling them to abstain; although abstinence is good in its own right. (As opposed to the reactionary hysterical suppressive oppressive right wing point of view.) I want to see kids learn about their bodies and learn to respect the opposite gender and learn to mature attitudes toward human sexuality. And I want to see kids growing up without that high school fantasy/illusion excitement about sex. I want to see kids taught that sex is an expression of love, intimacy, respect, caring, and is MUTUAL: love making. I want to see violence taught OUT of kid’s minds and hearts and bodies. I mean I want teens and children to be taught to be non-violent, loving, caring, sensitive, empathic, compassionate human beings not fools who can’t wait to lose their virginity and see sex as a conquest and war and dirty thing to be ashamed of………..wholesome versus violent.

  4. Tom Vitale says:

    I didn’t finish this post either!
    I want to see children and teens taught about humanity as opposed to the paranoia and oppressive forces I see all over the world. I want to see them be taught that no matter how it seems to them, they really are not mature enough for the beautiful dynamic between two people in love and mutually expressing their love for each other. I want to see parent-child relationships be wholesome so that kids don’t have to have two personalities: one for their friends, the other for their parents who are hiding from open communication and trust and respect. I want to see young people be taught that trust is not foolish; it is not foolish to give of oneself; it is not stupid to fall in love. I want to see children and teens be taught the beauty and sacredness of Life and of being alive. I want them to be taught respect for all life and NOT taught to hunt down animals. I want people to be taught non-violence; especially must they be taught how wrong it is to be sexually violent. I want adults to be taught all of this stuff too. It is NOT ” a dog eat dog world out there “. It is NOT “cool” to “get them before they get you”.
    I want to see people be taught that government is not an inherent evil as the extremists are claiming these days since President Obama took office; a man with a good heart and soul who is trying to solve a lot of problems–but who happens to be both “white” and “black” and “librul”. He has signed into law a lot of laws inspite of the bigoted calculated slanderous hate-inspiring obstructionism of the “other party”. I want an end to people teaching boys and girls to be racist, misogynistic, violent, manipulative, paranoid, angry, jealous.
    I want to see people be taught mature attitudes toward emotions. I want to see people be taught that there is no such thing as an enemy.
    NO I am not a pathetic idealistic “librul” “bleeding heart” dreamer. This is part of the key to world peace.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ms. Magazine, Jack Hammer. Jack Hammer said: RT @msmagazine: ABC's, criss-cross apple sauce and sex ed! What did you learn in kindergarden? http://ht.ly/2fm43 […]

  2. […] has the option to behave responsibly and not perpetuate a very destructive norm. How about we offer proper sex ed to American youth? How about we talk about what it’s really like to be a mom–the money […]

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