‘It was just condoms and pregnancy’: Students on high school sex education

The sex education curriculum for New Brunswick schools hasn’t been updated since 2005. Sex Week, a week of events that took place at the University of New Brunswick from Feb. 11 to 14, aimed to educate people about sex and topics that may have been overlooked in high school or middle school sex education.

The University of New Brunswick Student Union and The 203 Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity partnered to host events like bottomless bingo, trivia and talks. They wanted to create a dialogue around sex, sexual identities, sexual health and eliminate taboos.

Grace Taylor, the internal coordinator at The 203 Centre, said sex education is lacking across the country.

“You get a very base level of knowledge and it’s outdated, or it’s wrong, or it’s very extreme … it’s heteronormative and it’s censored in a way,” said Taylor.

Students went to The 203 Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity during Sex Week to express what they wish they learned in Sex Ed in school. (Elijah Matheson/AQ)

“I didn’t get education on STIs. The word gay was not brought up in my sex education at all. It was just condoms and pregnancy.”

One part of Sex Week was a box set up in The 203 Centre called “What I Wish I’d Learned in Sex Ed.” People were encouraged to submit anonymous information about what they wish they learned in their sex education curriculum.

Taylor said the information collected will go to the education faculty and to people who are going to be future sex educators.

AJ Alward, a third-year St. Thomas University English major, wishes there were more discussions around how to have sex in non-heterosexual relationships.

Students wrote Valentine’s cards during the week. (Elijah Matheson/AQ)

“I wish I learned how to have safe queer sex as an [assigned female at birth] person,” said Alward.

“I know for men it’s a little easier … because it’s easier to put on a condom but for like AFAB, people especially in non-heterosexual relationships, it’s like ‘how does that work?’ you know? ‘What’s the best way to do that?'”

Shannon Alexis, a second-year student at UNB, wishes she learned a lot more in her sex education too.

“I really wish that we had learned about vaginal discharge as opposed to just regular periods, because it’s a totally normal thing and it’s not just something that happens during your period but it’s healthy and normal,” she said.

“I wish we had learned that girls also masturbate just like boys. I wish we had learned that penetration is not actually the most common way for women to orgasm.”

Students put suggestions in a box. (Elijah Matheson/AQ)

UNBSU nursing counsellor Emily McMillan said she had the idea to bring Sex Week to UNB in Fredericton after she saw it happen at UNB Saint John.

“I think [sex] is just something taboo that a lot of people don’t think of. They think that cause you’re in your 20s that you understand everything about protecting yourself and everything that you need to know about sexuality, [when] in reality we all come from different backgrounds of education,” said McMillan.

This is the first time The 203 is involved in the programming of Sex Week. Taylor said sex education needs to go beyond pregnancy and condoms.

“Sexual health is something that’s important to people and that should not be taboo, it should be something that is talked about in schools,” they said. 

“We need to get over our personal taboos about it and to accept that people have sex and that they need to understand how to stay healthy and enjoy sex and have consensual sex.”

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