Never Mind BDSM 101 — We Need Sex Ed 101

*flag: this article is explicit. victims of child abuse may want to skip*

In the BDSM Community, we talk a lot about taking those all-essential classes to learn how to keep ourselves and our partners sexually healthy, emotionally wealthy and BDSM-wise. From BDSM 101 to classes on even the most baroque fetish play, education is our Community go-to to prevent accidents before they happen, to know just what to do in case of an emergency, and to make BDSM so good you want to do it all over again. BDSM education, whether from books or classes, allows us to sidestep the agony of making a dumb newbie mistake and ruining your chances for a mutually exciting, even joyful, BDSM life. Even the most experienced player enjoys a good class on WIITWD and can pick up a few safe new tricks to blow a partner’s mind.

In the outside world, most people, though, think they don’t need to learn about sex in order to have sex. “It’s doing what comes naturally,” people say. Yeah, and that would be fine if culture treated sex as a natural part of life. But when you grow up with people telling you it’s bad for you to do it “too much,” that it’s wrong to jerk off, and that your best option for having a good sex life is not to have a sex life until you get married, it un-naturalizes it. We aren’t doing what comes naturally. We don’t even know what natural would be for humans if there weren’t rules and taboos about the harmless fun of loving, consensual adult sex.

Our (global) culture makes sex seem forbidden and treacherous while telling you that, one day, when you get married, everything will work out just jim-dandy. And then, oh boy, what a happy recipe for erotic excellent you have when you don’t know how your own body works, how your partner’s genitals work, or how to cope with problems on a mature adult level.

I know. I slept with other sexually uneducated people for almost 15 years before starting my own BDSM education. The difference in my quality of life is incredible. I went from making poor (and unsafe) choices about sex to becoming a powerful advocate for my own sexual health. I went from chronic promiscuity to selective partnering. I learned how to spot a predator from a mile away. I discovered a wealth of information about human genitals and the unbreakable link between our minds and our sexual performance. I grew up sexual and then I grew up sexually — I was a horny and confused kinky, queer kid who became an adult at peace with her body and her choices.

BDSM gave me some of those tools, no doubt. But primarily, it was my thirst for getting educated about sex. From all my intense reading, I finally I realized that we are literally taught to be sexually broken people. We are taught that any kind of diversity is dangerous. In fact, we are warned of dangers that don’t exist while actual risks are played down. People with even worse sex problems than us told us shit we believed to be true and the results have been predictable: we’re as screwed up and confused about sex as the people trying to dictate what we do, how we do it, when we do it and who we do it with.

Sex education is about way more than learning the “birds and bees.” It’s about learning to respect your whole body and your mind. It’s about building sexual intelligence that empowers you to make good choices. It’s about building the sexual self-esteem to know what you want and to ask for it. It’s about feeling prepared to deal with adult realities, such as what makes for a good marriage partner, what to expect out of partnered sex, what pitfalls to avoid and how to protect yourself and to seek treatment when you notice something off with your sexual health. Are you, as an adult, aware of all that? Are you empowered to make the best choices for yourself? Are you educated enough to avoid stupid accidents and mistakes? Can you ask for what you want and get it from your partner? If you said no to any of the above, then your sex education has been incomplete. Welcome to the sad state of the world in 2017, a time when you could be educated if only someone cared but the system failed you so bad, you’re still a mess about sex and intimate relationships.

Sex education is what prepares everyone — not just our kids, but all adults who never got a comprehensive, fact-based understanding of the complexities of human sex relationships — to become sexually mature. Sexual maturity SHOULD be everyone’s goal. It has nothing to do with age, either. Sexual maturity is about bringing all your sexual knowledge to a place that gives you, personally, a sense of peace with your own sexual identity and gender identity. Mature sexuality means you develop a keen sense of the diversity of life and human experience and can apply that knowledge to steer you through life’s variety. It equips you to quickly identify and flee predators, exploiters, and people who don’t give you an equal voice in your sex life with them. It teaches you the value of consent, and how to not be a creep or molester. It’s really what a lot of BDSM people go through in the process of coming to terms with their authentic sexual identities. At some point, many if not most of us kinky people mature by beginning the process of sexual discovery all over again — only this time based on truths instead of on myths.

America has chronically lacked adults who are sexually mature. Right right now, most of our Senators and Congresspeople are about as mature as 10-year-old farmboys giggling when they watch cows do it. Nor does sexual ignorance have religious or political boundaries. People on all sides of the spectrum talk trash about sex, including adults in their best clothes on tv who act all serious. Throw sex into the mix, and their inner 10-year old starts snickering through their facade of maturity.

We seriously have to stop those immature babies from ruling against sex and reproductive rights. They don’t know what they are talking about. We the grown-ups are tired of fools who dictate sexual policy to others and then go home to sexually broken lives. We can destroy a lot of noxious, toxic cycles in America’s sex history by following the science and basing our opinions about normality and diversity on evidence, not ideology.

Here are four important reasons why sex ed must become a priority in today’s society.

 

1. Kids who get sex ed are less likely to have sex and relationship problems

Reams of studies of the efficiency of abstinence-ed shows that it’s been a total bust.  Instead of lowering the rate of pregnancy or reducing the risk of STIs, abstinence-only education raises risks on every front for kids. The science won’t stop the anti-sex forces, though, as this failure to follow the science in Santa Clara shows.

What does work is comprehensive sex ed, which teaches children, from a young age through high school, about the real-world risks of STI transmissions and explicit information on how to give or get things like HPV, Herpes, HIV, Syphilis and other potentially life-changing illnesses. Equally important, sex ed provides a context for sex that draws clear boundaries between mutually consenting sex and rape/molestation. It gives kids a clear idea on what is and is not acceptable without shaming them for their sexual urges or trying to clap a lid on their biological needs. The people most likely to commit sex crimes are ignorant about the harm they inflict when they don’t get explicit consent.

Equally important, sex ed provides a context for sex that draws clear boundaries between mutually consenting sex and rape/molestation. It gives kids a clear idea on what is and is not acceptable without shaming them for their sexual urges or trying to clap a lid on their biological needs.

Finally, kids need realistic models of adult sex to guide them to make better choices for themselves. They need to understand the types of sex people have and to develop realistic expectations for their own relationship potentials, including firm grounding in concepts of consent and mutual pleasure.
2. Child/teen sexual health issues are being thrown under the bus by politicians

As bad as it is for women’s health in the US right now, we are setting the country up for catastrophic sexual health crises in the next generation. Under the current administration, fundamentalist religious belief is now dictating reproductive health and rights — and slashing access to services and funding for pregnant teens left and right. These anti-sex know-nothings and their children will ultimately pay the price and one day will turn around and blame the very system they are currently supporting. Or they’ll blame their school system or their doctors or the predators in their family or even God for giving them the bad luck of having kids who have diseases they could have avoided, divorces they could have avoided, abusive relationships they could have avoided, and a potful of other sex-related conflicts and problems that comprehensive sex education can resolve.

Sorry, prudes, this one is on you. If you or your kids do any of the above (get an STI you could’ve prevented, a pregnancy you could have prevented, a marriage that fails because of sex, abuse and predation within your own family, etc. etc.) it’s all on you, because you never got educated on the facts about human sexuality. I have little patience for people who place their personal politics above their own children’s health and best interests. If you have kids, they come first. Follow your beliefs, but add facts to the mix, the way you do when it comes to finding a doctor to fix your health problems or getting on the computer to compete in today’s workplace. Accept that science is not your enemy, but a friend to humanity that supplies us with the medical evidence we can rely on and use to our benefit. And then accept that our national institutions are failing us and that you, as a parent, will have to quit counting on them to help your family cope with sex and relationship-based problems.
3. Comprehensive sex ed can break the cycle of sex predation and child abuse 

It may not be very professional therapist of me to say this, but clinical experience has shown me that most child predators and child-sex fantasizers have personality disorders that prevent them from empathizing with their victims. This is a mental health problem, exacerbated by the lack of mental health care on a national level. But there is another kind of predator out there that poses a threat just as great. That’s the ignorant, stupid or uneducated offender. I’m talking about all those otherwise nice people in your families and social circles who prey on your children. More often than not, they don’t even understand that they are directly causing harm to kids. The fact is that while rape usually connotes violence, you can rape someone’s mind and hurt their sexually just as much as you can rape their body. For example, a non-violent molestation over a child’s clothes is still enough to trigger an emotional crisis in a minor, and one that may last a lifetime.

One of the biggest problems in rehabilitating child predators is that they actually believe they are either a peer of the minor and thus harmless or that their sexually abusive behaviors are harmless fun for all. People like that — who don’t necessarily have underlying mental disorders — are themselves the victims of sexual ignorance. They never learned what consent really means. They have no understanding of how childhood sexuality works. They aren’t capable of making good choices because they are so messed up about sex in their own minds. Many of them don’t even accept or believe they are sexual predators for fondling a child inappropriately — maybe because they themselves were raised in abusive, sexually-negative and ignorant families. (I go into evidence-based details about how abuse interferes with normal child sexual development in my new eBook for parents.)

Sex education can turn that tide and break the cycles of interpersonal sexual abuse that American culture perpetuates.

4. Teaching STI prevention saves lives

You probably already knew that. But did you know that STI’s are at crisis levels among teens? There’s no happy face I can put on this fact. The CDC is well aware of the potential disaster it will cause, but politicians don’t care about unpleasant truths. STI prevention is not taught at most schools, is framed in sex-negative ways under abstinence education programs, and is arguably one of the most important subjects every adult needs to understand the way we all understand about the flu and measles. Teaching people to enter marriages without knowing their or their partners’ sexual health status, and pretending that “just say no” means you’ll stay infection-free are dangerously counter-intuitive practices. Teaching people to love and cherish their genitals by practicing safer sex is the only moral path forward. Every kid, without exception, needs to know what sexual diseases exist, how they are transmitted and when to go to a doctor for treatment. Parents who want to see their kids thrive in the modern world need to know and understand the facts themselves and give their children the facts they need to stay safer at any age.