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Sex Talk in the City: Reflections from a Sexual Health Educator

Guest Author: Catherine Evashuk 

In 1980, my pregnant sixth grade teacher, Mrs. R, decided to explain how babies were made in a straightforward way, and debunk that old myth about storks bringing babies to doorsteps.  After she explained how babies were made, she asked if anyone had any questions.  My hand shot up immediately: “If sex is to make babies, that must mean you’ve had sex twice,right?” (Mrs. R was pregnant with her second child). I remember her turning completely red and murmuring, “Not exactly!” This confused me, since she had just explained that sex was to make babies. If sex was for anything other than that specific goal, why would people have it?

Fast forward to 2013, to the Museum of Vancouver’s ‘Sex Talk in the City’. This amazing and comprehensively conceived exhibition is divided into three parts: ‘The Street’, ‘The Bedroom’ and ‘The Classroom’. As a Sexual Health Educator, ‘The Classroom’ is of course my favourite.  Wandering through ‘The Classroom’ where I can read Sex Ed questions scrawled onto desk, is always a hoot. My favorites include: “If a man gets a boner, what does a woman get?” and “What’s a G Spot and where is it located?”

Things have come a long way since I was a sixth grader in 1980.  Many of the questions students are asking today are about the pleasurable side of sex. These days, sex educators are trained to quite differently, and I must admit, do a much better job than Mrs. R. was able to do when teaching their students the basics of sexual health and reproduction . Still, some students’ eyes widen in disbelief when I explain that when people have sex, most of the time it is not for making a baby! In fact, one of the most common questions I find in the anonymous question box after a lesson is “If sex is to make babies, what’s birth control for?”

I like that so many parts of this exhibition focus on the pleasurable side of sex.  In ‘The Bedroom’ section, there’s a wall displaying vibrators, including some dating back to the late 1800s! I guess it shows that pleasure is always part of the equation, but the way we talk about it, has changed quite a bit.  Of course, the educator in me is also pleased that there is a significant portion of the exhibition - In ‘The Street’ – dedicated to showing and explaining an array of contraception options and condoms, which help people enjoy safer sex.

I wish Mrs. R had explained that sex can feel good and that making babies is only part of it.  Perhaps I should give her a call to invite her to the exhibition so we can check it out together!

*Catherine is a Certified Sexual Health Educator based in Vancouver, and is a volunteer at the Museum of Vancouver.

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