Our Dumb [Lack of] Sex Education

High school
grad 1961

If you’re over 60, 70 and beyond, how did sex misinformation and the lack of a decent sex education form your attitude about sex?  What did you have to learn or unlearn to become the person you are today?

I’ll start. I was born in 1943. This was my sex education:

  • When I was in junior high, my school’s gender-segregated sex education program was comprised of a filmstrip showing drawings of the reproductive system (no clitoris to be found) and a lecture about menstruation — why it happens, what to expect. I recall nothing about why people might choose to have sex!
  • When I was a young teenager, my sex education was a pamphlet handed to me by my father, an obstetrician/gynecologist, explaining how the sperm fertilized the egg — but nothing about how the sperm got to the egg, and nothing about arousal or pleasure.
  • When I was an older teenager, my father told me, “The best birth control is a dime — held firmly between the knees.” He did not want me to end up like some of my classmates who came to his office for a pregnancy test and later were shipped off to have the baby somewhere and give it up for adoption. These were the days before legal abortion.
  • The summer before I started college, my grandmother told me, “Don’t ever let a boy have his way with you! If you do, he’ll never marry you. After all, why buy the cow when you can get the milk free?” I was already having sex with my high school boyfriend.
  • During my freshman year in college, my father found out that I was having sex with my high school boyfriend. My parents declared that I was never to see him alone again, only supervised by my parents or his. So I learned how to lie to my parents.  
  • Home for the summer after my freshman year in college, I feared I was pregnant. Rather than risk going to a local doctor who would know my family and inform my father, my former boyfriend and I drove 50 miles so that I could use a fake name and not be recognized. I never told my parents about this.    

How did my lack of sex education inform my later attitudes and behavior? Fortunately, I was a rebel. You wouldn’t have guessed that looking at me. I behaved in school, dressed like a “good girl,” studied hard and got good grades, and mostly kept my divergent views to myself. But sexually, I rebelled. Thanks to my [lack of] sex education in high school, I thought I had discovered sexual passion — surely no one else knew about this! I loved getting excited, even though I wouldn’t have my first orgasm until sophomore year in college. That was one more casualty of my [lack of] sex education — we didn’t know anything about the clitoris and its role in female orgasm. Heck (I laugh to find myself falling into the language of the times!), we didn’t know anything about female orgasm, except that some women were “frigid” and it was their own fault and they should fix it.

But enough about me. How about you? What are the things you were taught — or not taught — that make you shake your head in disbelief now? If you’re over 60, please comment. Use whatever invented first name you want, but please include your real age. If you’re under 50, please stay and read the comments — this is the life we led. This is how we learned (or didn’t learn) about sex. These are the barriers we had to overcome.

Speaking of barriers, who remembers the childhood game Red Rover? “Red Rover, Red Rover, we dare Joanie to come over!” — is that how it went? The person who was summoned would race to the line of locked hands and try to break through. As tiny as I was (6th grade nickname: Mighty Mouse), I always succeeded because I barreled through any obstacle with little fear of consequence. I guess in my small way, I’m still doing that!


  1. Anonymous on May 12, 2017 at 10:26 pm

    I am in my 30 and do not want to interupt your rules, but I want to leave the comment about my mom who, unfortunately,is death for a year now.
    Mom was born in 1956 and since early age I remember how she was open to her sexuality and how deaply it influanced me. She was given me books, encyclopedias about female health, menstruation, sex organs etc. I remember the passionate sex life they have with my father ( including anal toys I found out once and we have a discussion about pros and cons of anal sex then. I was 20 so she was 51 and waaaay more experienced and joyfull then I).
    In my puberty she starts to be honest to me and telling me stories how it was difficult to show she like sex because it was kind of forbiden, how no one even her monther do not want to talk about these things, how menstruation was something bad and joy of sex was forbiden.
    What I want to say is that, my mom told me about hard times she had,but also she was doing her best to show me, her only child, that sex is natural and full of joy.
    I was raised in sex free envinroment, full of love and happiness. I am properly educated midwife, have my own family ( with 3Y son) so thing went well 🙂

    I will always miss my mom, who passed in 2014 on brain cancer, but I was lucky I had her.
    Female sexuality is difficult and.complexed and.hard to understand.even when you are open minded well educated like me. I have full sympathy for all ladies raised in at the same time as my.mom.
    Stay active 😉

    • Joan Price on May 13, 2017 at 2:52 am

      I'm really glad you shared this. Your mother gave you a beautiful gift, and you clearly loved her very much.

  2. Sidney L. on December 31, 2016 at 5:22 pm

    I, too, shared the gender separate junior and senior high school experience in the mid/late 1960's except I was in an all boys school. Girls were a mystery but definitely the focus of conversation when the 'guys' were just hanging out. Undoubtedly, anything remotely related to the truth about sex simply did not exist in those conditions. There was no such thing as 'sex education' other than biology class…"the talk" was expected of parents exclusively.

    For me, I walked into the house around dinner time one evening when I was 14 and was asked by my mom what I had been doing that afternoon. Quite innocently, I explained that I had been down to a nearby pony farm and watched while they were breeding ponies. Several minutes later, the air that had been sucked from the room returned and my dad jumped in and said something about appropriate dinner table conversation and that we needed to go to his classroom later that evening. I did get a very clear explanation about how tab 'A' fits into slot 'B' and what happened when sperm meets egg…basic stuff that I already understood, but now understood where, exactly, everything is located on the body and that I shouldn't go out with any of the girls from the local orphanage. That was the extent of teaching and the end of "the talk".

    With one parent working at a college, I was allowed access to the library stacks and discovered Masters & Johnson as well as Kinsey…not that we ever discussed it, but I soaked it in like a sponge. It took me a while to get past the idea that someone actually wrote all of that erotic stuff down for people to read, but it made a lot of sense to a kid with raging hormones.

    My first act of sexual intercourse happened with a girl friend when we were both 16 and still virgins. We talked about sex a lot in the months before we ended up in her parents' bed together, and as awkward as thing were, birth control and pleasure was something had talked about and learned from one another. It didn't take but a couple of encounters until we figured out the 'pleasure' parts of sex. We also figured out how to have sex in all sorts of places while maintaining complete and proper decorum around our parents. We are both 66 now and still friends…but not 'friends with benefits'.

    I have been married for 40 years and was exclusive to my wife…'was'. Her failing health due to RA pretty well ravaged her desire and comfort with enjoying sexual intercourse several years ago…although we are still intimate to this day. Another close friend from college (who I never dated) found herself in a very similar situation and just this year we talked about possibly taking the 'friendship' to a new level. Our first couple of encounters were perhaps the most intense and erotic sexual experiences for either of us…ever! We are both shocked at one another for what we have done and simultaneously more full of life than we have been in several years. For both of us this affair is still a cultural 'taboo' and fraught with danger to our marriages (and children)…at the same time, this newly found sexual energy has improved the quality of life for both of us.

    For the record, I was the one who gave "the talk" to both sons and daughters…and we covered a lot more than 'mechanics' and biology.

    • Joan Price on January 1, 2017 at 2:12 am

      Sidney, such a fascinating history! "I shouldn't go out with any of the girls from the local orphanage." — wow. I appreciate you sharing all those sexual milestones — thank you for being so open.

  3. Feminista on December 29, 2016 at 12:46 am

    I was a "late bloomer",though still within normal range,and didn't start menstruating until 2 months before I turned 15. In a way I'm glad,as I already knew about periods and thus didn't freak out. When I was 18 my sister,21, talked about using tampons so I bought my first package. After some initial awkwardness,I found they were much easier to use than pads. Although I knew the correct names for body parts thanks to biology class and the Tampon package illustration,I was woefully ignorant about sexuality. I had both delightful and terrifying experiences between 18-20. I was sexually harassed and assaulted more than once,and became confused and depressed. Fortunately at age 20,my sister gave me a copy of of the brand new Our Bodies,Ourselves and I got a copy of The Birth Control Handbook. This was 1971,and both copies were newsprint by design so as to get wide circulation. Getting involved in the burgeoning women's liberation movement that same year was exhilarating and validating. By 1972 I was co-chair of our campus feminist group and was working on getting a women's studies certificate. I've continued my activism,for women and a number of other causes,and taught college women's studies for 13 years. I was happy to use Our Bodies,Ourselves (OBOS) when I taught Intro to Women's Studies classes,and proud to be one of the contributors to the 40th anniversary edition of OBOS. I attended a conference and book launch party the OBOS collective organized in Oct.2011.

    • Joan Price on January 1, 2017 at 2:10 am

      Feminista, what an inspiring story! You went from painfully under-educated to taking charge of making sure sex ed was out in the open. Thank you!

    • Feminista on January 12, 2017 at 5:36 am

      Thanks for your support and validation,Joan.

  4. Joan Price on December 12, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    Sole, thank you for sharing your story. I am so sad about what you went through. I applaud you for reclaiming your sexuality — that must have been a difficult journey. Thank you for your courage in speaking out here.

  5. sole gonzalez on December 12, 2016 at 10:14 am

    I was born in 1969. My parents are both primary school teachers, cultured people. They like to think about themselves as a progressive couple, and politically they were opposing the Spanish dictatorship at that time. They are not.

    When I had my first period, I knew nothing about. I was already 13 years old. I thought I was dying.

    Before that, the woman that took care of me and my sisters when they were at work, used to read erotic novels, that I secretly "borrowed" sometimes. With that "knowledge" and my imagination, I draw comics for me and a friend of mine to enjoy, and we played with our Barbies and her brother's g.i-joe figures making them "fuck". When my family and hers found out it was as if the world would stumble upon us. Playing together was forbidden from that day on.

    My mother never talked to me about anything close to sex or genitals. My father did, when I was about to start university, only to tell me not to have sex with anyone in my town, so no one could tell any potential husband that I was "experienced". He thought this was revolutionary I guess, because he wasn't saying "do not have any sex".

    The saddest thing is that this man that "protected my virtue" used to come to my bedroom by night and enjoyed touching my genitals, sometimes hurting me, since I was a girl till my first periods. In fact, I don't remember any of my partners braking my hymen.

    That's the paradox of sex non-education y this society. They don't teach you so you can't be aware that someone is being abusive. Don't worry for me. I'm still fighting but now my body is mine and I love sex and enjoy learning how to have the better I am able.

    Sorry if there are some grammar or spelling mistakes, English is not my mother tongue.

    Kisses to everyone that reads this and special thanks to Joan for her great educational effort.

  6. Anonymous on December 2, 2016 at 1:42 am

    Dan here 69 in two days! Having more and better sex now than ever. Learned to masturbate from the Darrel next door; used soap as a lube; but only once. Dah, would take your skin off! Damn. Mom put a book at the door from my brother three yrs older; I asked if I could read it. Had two pump sex at age 19 because she said she was on the pill. I gave her my heart and she game me the clap!
    Funny thing is, fast forward 50 yrs and my own daughter balked at my sex books I would read and discretely read Playboys. Her mom and I tried to get her to go to the sex ed class in school but SHE refused; a virgin until 24 by her own choice.
    I did tell her the best birth control was the vision of a college diploma between her legs. It was so her mom's job to teach/talk to her I thought. So hard for a dad/daughter. I think I failed her.
    I was stupid about sex until the 1975 book For Yourself by Lonnie Barbach.

  7. Cindi Bri on November 30, 2016 at 11:15 pm

    I was born in 1950, I will be 66 next week. My experience parallel yours very well. The only additions is that I was molested when I young and raped as a teen. Even with those, I never made the connection between sex, genitalia and the abuses, until I was about 16, and then reading forbidden books, I learned the truth. When I was 20, I moved in with my boyfriend and my father had a fit. A year later, my father left my mother and moved in with his own girlfriend. When I challenged him on the hypocrisy about this, he said it was different.. I was his daughter. I then pointed out that his girlfriend, who was my age, was also someone's daughter. I'm writing an article for my own blog about this very topic.

    • UkHdSex.Com on December 3, 2016 at 7:53 am

      What is the minimum age u think is safe for first time Sex?

    • Joan Price on December 6, 2016 at 7:44 pm

      UkHdSex, it completely depends on the maturity of the person(s) involved, their relationship, their understanding of themselves and each other, their culture, possible repercussions if people found out, and many other factors. There's no way to assert a minimum chronological age without knowing the people involved.

    • UkHdSex.Com on December 19, 2016 at 12:51 pm

      yes you are right madam Joan

    • Joan Price on December 25, 2016 at 3:08 am

      Cindi Bri, my answer to you seems to have disappeared. I am so sorry that you were molested and raped. Keeping us in ignorance was the way they insured that we wouldn't understand and we wouldn't tell. So wrong.

    • Cindi Bri on December 25, 2016 at 9:33 am

      Thank you, Joan. That is my feeling as well. If I had at least some sex ed, maybe I would have known I could tell someone. But it's frustrating and sad to me that 50 years later, not much has changed. We should have evolved so much further than we have in this regard.

  8. Steve on November 30, 2016 at 7:51 am

    We were all kept in ignorance one of the simplest form of control.

    Thank you for sharing your experience.


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