Coming out as a “sex educator”

At some point in any conversation with a new person the dreaded question “So what do you do?” comes up.  And then I have to decide whether to “come out” or not.  Don’t get me wrong am not embarrassed or ashamed of what I do at all its just it inevitably leads to more questions and sometimes I’d much rather talk about you or other things since sometimes it feels all I ever do is talk/rant/write about Sex & Relationships Education. (“well you shouldn’t have started a blog then should you?”).

My answer will often change dependent on my audience too.  My Grandpa for example only knows I work in Health Education- he’s very old fashioned, the truth could kill him!  In fact to most random people I work in Health Education.  It’s just easier that way, and it’s still the truth just truth without mentioning the word “sex. *gasp* because then you get the questions……

Sometimes I will say I work in Sexual Health as it just seems an easier demographic to join.  But when I actually come out and say- “Well, I work as a Sex and Relationships Education Teacher/Trainerey type thingummybob” then there is always this kind of “oooh” from them- whether it is suprise or excitement I don’t know (or more likely confusion at my current ridiculous job title- better think of a better one) I think its because *gasp* I work with kids. And obviously Sex is something we must never ever tell the children about.

And then you get the questions…:

“Yes but you don’t want to teach sex education to 5 year olds do you?”

– Well actually I do- but not the shock horror Daily Mail sensationalist reporting sex education.  But the this is your body and this is growing up and this is what friends are type of “sex education” (which is about as shocking as a teacake and has only caused “outrage” because the word Sex is mentioned) So that when they get older the periods and baby making talk isn’t quite so unfathomable and terrifying. In fact am going to blog about that soon- my plans for educating my own kids about sex and relationships.

“Oooh your work sounds like fun- you must have some stories”

-Yep I do, and I probably will tell them one day- maybe that’s another blogpost for another day. 🙂

“Are you obsessed with sex then?”

– Sorry what?  Since when did me mentioning I worked in Sex Education give you right to ask that very personal question.  Just because I mentioned the word Sex doesn’t mean we now have a special “sex talk bond”.  Actually to be fair I have only had this one a couple of times but this one I just know people are thinking if they are not saying! They just get this look….  like they are trying to see through my clothes to see the corset and stockings and suspenders I *obviously* have on underneath my dorky teacher cardigans, flat shoes and “should have gone to specsavers” glasses  Sigh.  [To the Daily Mail Journalist who stumbles across this blog please please google sarcasm before you go any further]

alongside that question I always get the:

“Oooh do you do practical lessons”

I mean seriously?! Come on!  Although I must confess to being most amused by the Monty Python sex education sketch but one of the basic tenets of sex education is don’t talk about your private life (and surely it must go without saying “don’t have sex infront of your class”?!)   But actually sometimes I must admit to freaking people out when I answer this one.  I like to say- “well actually we do- kinaesthethic learning is very important”- and then proceed to wax lyrical about the relationships role plays,  condom demonstrations and condom negotiation roleplay, STI transmission practical activity and other “practical” lessons until their eyes glaze over and they really regret asking me the question!

“So how did you get into that…… oh sorry erm… if its not too personal”

-eh?  What- do you think I have some deep dark rooted sex secret that makes me into some kind of  sex ed deviant?!  I went to Africa a few times while at Uni – worked as a Sex Ed teacher over there on an HIV project.  Came back got cross about sex ed in this country and decided on a career path.  Simples. Well actually not that simple as I had to train to be a science teacher first because you can’t train to be a PSHE teacher (Sigh) and then I had to work bloody hard to specialise in Sex Education and develop a semblance of a career out of it!

And finally the most tricky question of all:

But you don’t teach them about “the gays”/”abortion”/”Sexual pleasure”/”The clitoris”/pornography [ insert any other “controversial” aspect of Sex Education here] do you?

By asking the question (depending on how its phrased) you are telling me a lot about where your values lie in comparison to mine.  Now I find values one of the trickiest aspects of  Sex Education, I mean I have tied myself in knots writing essays on it and reading books by very clever people on it and I find that even people working in Sexual Health with young people have slightly different values bases to each other.  It’s a minefield I tell ya’.  But the thing is no matter how different our values bases are whether you are a parent, a priest, a teacher, a student I think we actually need to spend more time working on where our values are common than where we contradict- and a most basic value I think we all share is that we want our young people to grow up safe and happy.  So my generic answer to a loaded question would be “I always try to give the young people the facts (and we can explore issues raised in discussions) on any situation they ask me about, as it is important that young people feel they can get honest impartial information on any subject relating to sex within a safe environment.” Probably a cop out.  Sometimes I do like a rant back but then discussions can get heated and I am a bit of a wuss when it comes to confrontation. Sigh.

Anyhow I just felt the need to “come out” in my blog as a sex educator.  I/we/all sex educators need to be shouting about Sex & Relationships Education to keep it on the agenda and keep reinforcing its importance.

And if you are a sex educator reading my blog- what questions do you get asked when you “come out?”


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