Stephanie Yeboah, multi award winning author, activist and content creator, looks back at her sex education growing up and explains how it affected her life.
BY THE ROAM TEAM 10 MIN READ
Sometimes referred to as RSE (Relationships and Sex Education), sex ed is taught in schools across the UK and should look at all issues and matters pertaining to sex, relationships, gender and sexuality.
Growing up as a second generation West African child of Christian parents that immigrated to the United Kingdom, the topic of sex (and by large, anything that would be considered a ‘vice’ or a ‘sin') was virtually non-existent in my household.
Because of this, sex was something that I always found to be mysterious and enchanting: I had seen the odd sex scene in movies here and there when my parents weren’t around, and would always wonder why I would develop feelings in areas that almost felt ‘wrong’, even though I liked what I saw on screen?
I knew about the topic of sex education from my neighbours’ kids who were slightly older than me, and they would regale me with tales of bleeding vaginas, painful interactions with men, and scary stories of what could happen if you didn’t take something called ‘The Pill’.
For me, I wanted to know all the facts about what this new phenomena was, why I had new feelings and sensations in my body that felt so right, yet so wrong at the same time, and what the hell semen was.
As I made my way through Primary and Secondary school, I waited for the glorious day when I would learn all about the birds and the bees, and have all the questions I’d ever wanted to know, answered. However, venturing into each new year brought nothing but disappointment as our classes were denied the opportunity to learn, that was until one afternoon in my Science lesson in Year 8.
I remember coming into class and our teacher telling us that we would be watching a video about conception. She barely explained the meaning of conception before dimming the lights, putting the TV on and subsequently leaving the room, leaving myself and the rest of the class to watch a twenty minute documentary of the sperm’s journey towards the egg.
I remember watching the documentary thinking to myself, ‘is this what sex is?’ It was so…biological. So formal. That was the first and last time we were ever “taught” sex education at school.
To say I was gutted would be a huge understatement. I was approaching my teens and due to me not being able to open up to my parents about my impending puberty and ‘strange new feelings’, I felt trapped. I didn’t wear a bra until I was 14 with DD breasts due to being too scared to shop for a training bra. I screamed when I started my first period before school due to thinking I was dying.
And as for sex? The first time I’d ever seen two people getting it on was when I accidentally stumbled on a porn tape whilst visiting a friend’s house. I remember watching the video countless times, rewinding it at certain parts in order to figure out what was going on logistically.
Back then, what struck me more than anything was how the actors in the tape looked. Both white, both slim, with the woman having long, black hair, full breasts and no pubic hair. My first thoughts were ‘is this what you’re supposed to look like when you have sex?’ and the perception of bodies and who was deemed worthy of desire became forever embedded into my brain.
Deeper into my teens, I began to scour the internet for information on all things to do with periods, puberty, sex and childbirth and again, the only illustrative images and videos I saw all centred around white, cisgendered, slim people living their best lives.
As a plus size woman, learning all these things on my own for the first time
But in my head, it seemed that sex was this terrible, demonic, painful process that only happened to the most desirable among us in our society. A vice, so to speak, and I wanted in.
I often think back to my childhood and wonder if I would have approached sex differently if I had been taught it officially at school. Not just the biological phenomenon, but taught the emotional and mental ramifications of undertaking sex and getting to know our bodies as we grew older. I probably wouldn’t have been so afraid and hateful of my body. I wouldn’t have tried to change myself in order to deem myself more sexually desirable. I probably wouldn’t have been so afraid of sex, in and of itself. It’s imperative that inclusive sex education is taught at schools, and that it is an education that encompasses not only the physical, but the emotional impact of undertaking the experience.
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