Steph describes her experience with sexual education and how she received it growing up. She also recalls how she was able to inform herself regarding sex and sexuality through an internship she acquired during her time in college.
Steph: Oh man. Once upon a time, it would have been just sex and that, and that was it, but I’ve since learned that sexualities—like this innate part of us from birth on that has to do with what’s going on in our bodies and how we relate to each other as humans, so I feel like sexuality is such a huge concept, which is why I figured I might as well check that box. It could go in so many different directions.
OBOS Today: I wonder what you kind of learned about sexuality, as you were growing up as a kid.
Steph: So, I mean when I think back on sex ed, I don’t remember a lot. I do remember, I spent a lot of time passing notes with my crush who’s right next to me. I remember that there were, you know, the usual anatomy slides I remember that they used a lot of that fear-based messaging like, “Here all the photographs of the genital warts you’re going to get if you have sex,” that kind of thing. I don’t remember much else other than that from the school lessons.
And as far as it went at home, my mom didn’t really talk to me about sex until I was 19 and I had entered into a serious relationship with someone who was about five or six years older than me. And she brought it up, because she was like, “Okay, this guy’s older, he’s gonna want to have the sexy sex. Let’s talk about birth control!” and that was literally the first conversation we really had about sex at all. Before that I guess it just never came up. Maybe she assumed that school would take care of it.
I didn’t even really know—I don’t remember what year this was, but I didn’t know what sex or penetrative intercourse was until I saw that TV special they ran on Magic Johnson and AIDS. And then I was like, “Holy crap, that’s what—that’s what sex is? That sounds horrifying.” I was very young at the time, but that was how I learned what sex, or how we defined sex at the time, that’s how I learned what it was.
OBOS Today: Yeah, I wonder, like besides that TV special, like, if there are any other resources that you look to, I mean just maybe, just like talking to friends or anything else that you’ve learned that you look to to learn about that.
Steph: I mean yeah, I think this was the early days of the Internet when we all had dial-up, and dial-up, you know, conflicted with the phone line, so I wasn’t searching for stuff online, it was mostly hearsay among peers.
And I didn’t really start learning much more about sex until I went to college and ended up in an internship where I was writing adult content, and I was reviewing toys and books and porn and I was like, “Okay, well, here it is, here’s the education, right here, that I didn’t get before.”
So, I didn’t even know what was out there before then, and that was when I was—that internship, I think I was 21 at the time—and that was when I learned about sites like Scarleteen. I learned about Our Body Ourselves.
I learned about—I started reading Nerve at that time, I think they had only recently launched, I learned about Carol Queen and her awesomeness but before then, it never even occurred to me to look online.