5 Facts About Sex I Learned As An Adult That Were Never Covered In Sex Ed
"Careful," despite being a word with good intentions, is kind of a vague term. How should I have been careful?
My class wasn't like that scene in "Mean Girls" where the gym teacher goes on an epic rant about sex and dying. No, it was more like just covering sex in a way parents would talk about it: a little reserved, yet informational in a bare-minimum kind of way.
Not only were the topics covered in a dry and uninteresting manner (we read from textbooks and watched outdated videos about what vaginas look like), but they also omitted some really important information.
For example, in health class, I was only told to use a condom while actually having intercourse, but was never taught about the dangers of pre-cum. I'm assuming that "pulling out" was either not a trendy thing guys did in the bedroom when I was young, or it just wasn't covered for reasons rooted in laziness or ignorance.
Either way, my classes didn't really take into account the fact that many girls my age would someday find themselves boyfriend-less, but sexually liberated.
What surprises me about my sexual knowledge is I ended up learning about the repercussions of these particular unsafe sex practices as an adult.
These lessons were either learned from my own mistakes, from my gynecologist, or by Googling things on WebMD (which you shouldn't do, despite our reader survey of 240 Millennials showing that the first thing roughly 62 percent of guys and 53 percent of girls do when they think they have an STD is Google their symptoms).
And by erratic sex life, I mean a sex life that includes seriously considering a threesome in Europe and having short-lived, sexual relationships with people in open marriages (yeah, I lead a very adventurous life).
I found the answers to my sexual questions by experiencing them in real-time, as opposed to being taught them like I probably should have been.
So, here's what I now know about sex that grade school health class sure as hell did not teach me.
1. The pull-out method simply isn't reliable.
I always used to ask myself, "Can you really get pregnant if a guy pulls out? What are the odds?" But that topic was never covered in health class. I had to figure it all out for myself.
To get a more in-depth answer to that question, I asked Nicole Prause, Ph.D, a sexual psychophysiologist and neuroscientist.
Dr. Prause (aka Dr. Nikky) says the risk of pregnancy for each woman is different because the amount of sperm a man has — and how healthy those sperm are — varies from man to man.
When it comes to the risk of pregnancy when using the pull-out method, Dr. Nikky says, "There is no way to tell the risk of pregnancy from any particular person." That being said, "The failure rate for preventing pregnancy using withdrawal is around 23 percent."
She importantly points out that pulling out doesn't prevent STDs from spreading.
2. You're more prone to getting UTIs if you aren't well-lubricated during sex.
This is something I learned by having sex repeatedly without enough foreplay or lube. Of course, I'd always known what lube was, but I never knew just how important it was in the bedroom.
Some questions I had to answer were: How much lube should I use during intercourse? Does the amount of lube I should use vary depending on how wet I am from foreplay alone, or how big (or small) a guy's penis is, and how it fits into my vagina?
I didn't know. And as a result, my twenties were filled with UTIs (and trips to the gyno to get rid of them!).
I realized I needed to up my foreplay game with the men I slept with, or use more lube.
3. STDs can be spread skin-to-skin.
I wasn't even made aware as a teen that certain STDs can be spread skin-to-skin, even if you are wearing a condom. All I was told was "wear a condom because it'll solve all of your problems" and HIV/AIDS is a really scary thing that still afflicts people.
Dr. Nikky says any infections that can be spread skin-to-skin should be taken seriously.
She says, "Two infections commonly transmitted during sex from skin contact that barriers (i.e. condoms) reduce the risk for are human papilloma virus (HPV) and herpes simplex virus (HSV)."
If health teachers had told us about this when we were younger, maybe a staggering 85 percent of Americans wouldn't test positive for HSV1 or HSV2 every year, according to Dr. Nikky. (Yep! The numbers don't lie.)
4. It's actually really easy to contract STDs.
I didn't learn about just how easy it is to contract certain STDs like chlamydia and gonorrhea. I have a handful of friends who contracted chlamydia or gonorrhea because they really thought they were invincible.
Dr. Nikky knows about the hush-hush culture, which might be a product of not talking openly about these two STDs that run rampant when were younger.
She says, "The main barrier to treatment, though, is embarrassment (e.g. relying on parents to access testing) and barriers to access care (e.g. expense) causing people not to get tested in a timely manner."
5. Some strains of STDs are resisting common treatment methods.
I also didn't know that certain STDs come with caveats. Health class told us most STDs are curable, but they didn't go into as much detail about those curable STDS as they probably should have.
"The main public health concern is that some strains, especially of gonorrhea, are more resistant to our most common treatment methods," Dr. Nikky explains.
Overall, I'm disappointed by the sexual education I received as a young adult.
If I'd known more, I might have spent my young 20s acting less reckless and just a little more self-aware. Had I received the proper sexual education, I wouldn't have made as many trips as I did to the free clinic with STD and pregnancy scares.
There isn't much I can say to my former health teachers now that I'm grown up and out of school, but if you guys are currently in sex ed, I encourage you to ask questions about things you want to know but feel aren't being covered.
What are some common things your friends are doing in the bedroom? What are those secret things you go home and Google to learn more about because they're happening to you, or you're afraid they will happen to you?
Being curious and making your curiosity known to a health professional will always help you lead a safe, healthy and fun sex life in the future.
Read more from our Sex ED series.