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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Bump on a Blog: Sex Ed

Posted By on Tue, Mar 4, 2014 at 10:50 AM

Colorful markers for writing anonymous questions at the Unitarian Universalist OWL (Our Whole Lives) class.
  • Colorful markers for writing anonymous questions at the Unitarian Universalist OWL (Our Whole Lives) class.
I remember very little about middle-school sex ed. My gym teacher, Mr. Leto, taught the class, and I vaguely recall cringing as he rolled a condom onto a banana. One day, his assistant, Mrs. Waddams, took us girls to a separate room so we could learn about menstruation. She gave us each a few pads and a stick of deodorant and sent us on our way. 

I'm sure there was more, but I've blacked it out.

My husband, Daniel, had a more sex-positive experience, thanks to the Unitarian Universalist's famously open-minded (and controversial) sex-ed curriculum called About Your Sexuality. At about age 12, he and his classmates watched racy masturbation slideshows featuring real people.

"I remember loving the slideshow for its graphic depictions of naked ladies," he says. "I also remember being annoyed that we saw the boy version and the girl version back to back, and they were identical stories: 'Fred was alone in his bedroom one day when he started to get a powerful feeling… Betsy was alone in her bedroom one day when she started to get a powerful feeling…'

"Oh, and we saw a penis-mounted camera going on the most captivating adventure into a vagina. It was crazy. It blew my little mind," he continues. "I remember loving that I got to skip the boring version of sex-ed at the middle school because I had taken the 'advanced' course at the UU church."
 
The UU program has tamed a bit since the mid-'90s. The current curriculum, Our Whole Lives (OWL) — which was developed in collaboration with the United Church of Christ — is built around the idea that well-informed kids make healthier choices about sex and relationships. They replaced the graphic slideshows with intriguing drawings. Classes address a set of core values: self-worth, sexual health, responsibility, justice and inclusivity. 

This past Sunday, I was invited to the Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society's OWL class in Middlebury, where the kids were learning about pregnancy. I was the real, live pregnant lady they could ogle. Daniel came along to offer the partner perspective. We joined certified professional midwife Chenoa Hamilton, and maternal-child-health nurse Val Ortiz for two hours in the basement of the Mary Johnson Children's Center.

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