Sex education in school varies across the country and, in many states, has the sole intention of keeping kids from "doin' it." Non-standardized curriculum, scare tactics and avoidance of many elements of sexuality — masturbation, body development, the mechanics and possibilities of, like, sexual everything — has left of couple of generations ill-informed when they become sexually active. Moreover, school sex ed classes have left lots of even very open parents ill-equipped to fill in the gaps with their own kids.
That's been changing, slowly, quietly. Or, in the case of Julie Metzger's Great Conversations sex ed course, loudly and with lots of laughs from parents and kids.
Bonnie Rochman writes in the New York Times about the Great Conversations class she and her daughter attended. Metzger's goal is to bring the sex conversation out of school and back home — a candid dialogue between parents and kids, not parents and blushing, awkward teachers. Rochman's daughter, like many of the kids in attendance, was a reluctant participant. Rochman, too, wasn't sure what to expect.
"The idea that we are talking to two generations at the same time is at the core of this," Metzger explains in the piece. "Parents walk in feeling almost victimized by preteens and puberty, and my job is to utterly transform their ability to connect," she says. "That sounds so arrogant, but I know when I walk in that room, that is my work."
Metzger answers questions with humor, analogies kids can relate to—and, above all else, honesty.
There's a boy versions of the class, too, taught by Greg Smallidge, a sexuality educator. He tends to start his class with "The Penis Opera," where all the non-clinical names for body parts are acknowledged. It's pretty attention-getting. He knows his audience.
Metzger, who lives and teaches in the Pacific Northwest, has taught some version of sex ed for more than 30 years. She's had to change the content and approach along with the times, recognizing the needs of LGBTQ children and their parents, and also the needs of families whose first language isn't English but whose kids are growing up only hearing about sex and sexuality in the vernacular of their peers.