In Act II of The Amatuers, playwright Jordan Harrsion tells the audience about the humors and horrors of his middle-school sex education. In this spirit, we asked OTC staff: What was your sex ed experience like?
Meredith Beisel, Marketing and Development Apprentice
I went to Catholic School for 12 years. This may sum up my experience... At most high school dances, the Sisters would walk around with a ruler in their hand or something that could separate people if they didn't leave room for Jesus.
Rebecca Dzida, Community Engagement and Touring Coordinator
I grew up in a very Catholic family, so we just didn't (and still don't really) talk about sex. I went to a K-8 Catholic school. Starting in the 3rd grade we had a unit each year in our Religion class called "Family Life" where we learned about puberty and pregnancy. In the 7th grade, we were given 5 pound bags of flour that we had to take care of as our babies for a week (My flour was a boy I named Benjamin). I recall a brief Health unit as part of my P.E. class freshman year of high school, but I don't remember what we learned. When I was a junior or senior in high school, my sister brought DVDs of Sex and the City home from college, and I watched them all one weekend while my parents were away. Aside from that, a lot of trial and error and my own research.
Hannah Ensign, Education Apprentice
Very bad. I remember in 8th grade, when we started the sex ed unit in my health class, our teacher gave us slips of paper, where we were supposed to write anonymous questions that he would draw out of a box to answer. Most of the slips were black. Despite the anonymity of the situation, I think I grew up in a culture where conversation about sex were extremely stigmatized. The only question he read was, "How do you use a tampon?" to which he replied, "Ask your Mom." After that he abandoned the exercise. I did not receive any sort of information on contraceptives throughout my sex ed experience in middle school and high school. I definitely had an abstinence only education. There was absolutely no discussion of sexual health issues relating to the LGBTQ+ community. I was left very uninformed by the public school system and I feel very lucky that my parents were open and honest with me about these issues or else I would have gone into adulthood very uneducated.
Sarah Kiker, Dramaturgy Apprentice
I went to a private Christian school, so my sex ed experience was almost non-existent. We did watch a video series called I Kissed Dating Goodbye, which encourages teenagers to avoid dating entirely and to focus on developing one’s relationship with God. It also advocated for “courtship” (a type of dating which emphasized group dates and parental involvement) and for couples to save their first kiss for their wedding day. Josh Harris, author of the series, published a statement in 2018 about how he regretted writing the book because of the indirect harm it caused. There’s a whole documentary about it called I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye.
Madeline Dozat, Carpentry Apprentice
Technically my sex education in like 5th-7th grade was normal, "don't get pregnant, abstinence only, but I guess we will tell you about contraception because we are cool teachers" sex education. My REAL sex education was with my childhood best friend, Jen, who had an older brother by 6 years and he just told us everything about sex. Even showed us pictures. We made our stuffed animals fall In love, get married (because premarital sex was still a no-no) and then hump each other. It was weird. We were, like, 8.
Colleen Robinson Miller, Manager of Special Events and Donor Relations
I went to Catholic school from kindergarten through high school. From 3rd grade to 8th grade our religion class each year included a section called Family Planning. In the younger grades this was just an instruction of how a baby was conceived (beginning post-coitis, of course), how it developed, and how it was born (these were all things I already knew thanks to a little movie called Look Who's Talking).
Around 7th or 8th grade we carefully dipped in to what exactly lead up to the conception piece of things, but always with the underlying message of "This is what married couples do." There was little to no discussion of STDs or safe sex. I remember one year my religion teacher took out a latex glove and shoved her thumb into the thumb hole. She proceeded to push and push until it broke, and then looked at the class and proclaimed "That's how easily a condom can break." I didn't say it at the time, but my immediate thought had been, "Well, it sure looked like it took a lot of effort." That was the same year I learned what a blow job was from one of my friends and the same year my classmates were discussing the rumor that if you had sex in a hot tub you couldn't get pregnant (which is false).
In my high school there was no sex education as part of our curriculum (not even in religion class) but once a year we had Smart Love Day which was a day without classes where there were different programs and presentations throughout the day to discuss love, what makes a lasting relationship, what role God should play in your relationship, and, very briefly, safe sex (aka abstinence).
Suffice it to say, the majority of things I learned about sex in my pre-teen/teen years came either from my friends/classmates or pop culture (listening to the cast albums of Rent and A Chorus Line proved way more educational than school).