I’m lucky my parents are open-minded when it comes to love, health, and sex. But I’ve also found that some of their ideas were outdated and based on stereotypes from the ’80s. It’s easy to just say, educate yourself! After all, in college, many of us spend our time reading theory, analyzing research, or having these conversations with our friends.
But my parents don’t have the time or energy for Judith Butler’s gender performance theory or Foucault’s History of Sexuality or Audre Lorde’ life essays. Instead, I needed to explain the issues in a way that was quick, straightforward, and easy to understand—basically sex-ed.
So if you’re also trying to teach some sex-ed for the people in your life, here are a few easy resources and ideas to tackle.
1. Virginity is a social construct
There are a lot of options for young, menstruating people including pads, menstrual cups, period underwear, and tampons. I was getting tired of using period pads when I asked my mom to pick up tampons on our next trip to Costco.
“I don’t think you should use tampons unless you’re no longer a virgin,” my mother said.
I was confused. “Why not?” Her response was something to the effect of hymens and virginity.
She’s not entirely wrong in the sense that tampons can stretch or even tear the hymen. But hymens have nothing to do with virginity. Virginity just asks if you’ve had sexual experience. Other than that, it is a social construct without biological existence.
Listen to medial experts, Dr. Nina Dølvik Brochmann and Ellen Støkken Dahl, discuss the biology and social pressure around virginity in their 2017 TEDTalk: “The Virginity Fraud”
2. Safe sex is for everyone
My high school sex-ed was just about how a condom can stretch over a banana and avoiding pregnancy. But sexual health should include protecting against STIs and STDs—and that goes for everyone.
The assumption is that safe sex is just for single, straight people hooking up. But it’s also for people in committed one-on-one relationships, people in polyamorous relationships, and LGBTQ+ people (single or otherwise). Too many older adults, especially those who were around during the HIV/AIDS pandemic, assume that there isn’t a way to be safe in LGBTQ+ relationships. But that’s simply not true.
Planned Parenthood’s guide to STIs and STDs talks about protection and what happens if you already have an STD.
Parents, even if your kids are LGBTQ+, there is no avoiding the talk and sex-ed: Healthline’s LGBTQIA Safe Sex Guide.
Just because you like the feeling of danger in a kink, doesn’t mean you throw caution to the wind: kinks can and should be safe as well.
3. Gender isn’t binary
This is where some older generations dip, claiming that it is all too difficult to remember. But it isn’t! Binary refers to the idea that there are only two possibilities, such as black and white. But as the LGBTQ+ flag reminds us, there are a whole lot of colors and if your parents can remember Roy G. Biv, they can do this.
It’s essential to understand that gender, sexuality, and anatomical sex are different. But how do you explain that in a simple way? Lo and behold, the Genderbread Person.
UC Davis’s LGBTQ+ Glossary provides a dictionary for the language that not everyone is familiar with.
4. Sexual attraction is based on gender identity, not genitals
This can be a tough one with the older generation, even among those who claim to be LGBTQ+ friendly. But it’s actually very simple.
Most often, this issue comes up in questions around dating: If you are dating a transgendered person, with a different gender than your own, are you no longer straight? As long as you are only attracted to people of a gender that is different from your own, then that’s pretty damn straight. But does it really matter? Maybe it’s really about facing the underlying stigmas around queerness.
If you’re just looking for a simple, super quick, three-minute read from Playboy.
But a better resource would be this advice column from Jera Brown that provides a more in-depth commentary while still keeping it understandable.
5. It’s possible to not be attracted to someone
As I’ve dated more people, my parents have taken to asking me, “So what is your type?” But I identify somewhere on the gray-asexual scale. Still, when I tell them I don’t have a type, there’s a bit of disbelief on their part.
Often, this comes from a place of good intentions. Parents who are really trying their best can get tripped up on the idea that sex is “natural” or “everyone does it.” But not everyone does. Asexuality and, alternatively aromanticism, is completely and wholly real.
Remember, there is nothing wrong with you, it’s not a disorder or dysfunction.
It’s important to remember that sex-ed doesn’t end with these five points. I’m already lucky that my parents are open-minded and have become more progressive over the years. But I can’t rest on those laurels. I have to keep pushing them, and myself, to learn with the times. All type of education—including sex-ed—is lifelong, and it’s something we can all strive to keep working on.
Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!