Essay, Research Paper: Sex Education

Sexuality

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What is the first thing you think about when you think of elementary school
rites of passage? For me it is and always will be sex education. Only for me it
was not such a time of wonder; it was more like a time of trying to keep my
stomach from turning inside out. I remember it like it was yesterday, even
though it was more like seven years ago. It was late April, headed into the
summer of my fifth grade year. My teacher was Mr. Atkinson, a funny little man
with a good background in American history and, conveniently, a fifth-grade
sense of humor. Our class was located in a small portable, which was the
trademark of overcrowded public schools in the area. Without air conditioning in
the spring it was like a furnace in there, and that did nothing to help my
situation. District policy in regards to sex education led to this learning
phenomenon each spring, when the male teachers would take aside the fifth grade
boys and the female teachers would do the same with the girls. I remember being
rounded up like cattle and herded into the portable, which was doubly crowded as
it bore the brunt of the fifth grade male population in the school. There was
excitement, fear, wonder, apprehension, and a hundred other emotions swirling
around the group of kids, and all of them were obvious to anyone watching. As we
entered the small building, a mass of fidgety kids pinching through a small
doorway in the corner of the room, it was like no other time I had been in
there. The room seemed different somehow. Not worse, anyway, but there was a
definite change between then and the last time I had been in there. Thinking
back on it now, it was most likely the energy of all that curiosity, because
when the speech began, a depth of knowledge previously unknown to us was
suddenly and wonderfully available. Previously, that which we did know was as
much fiction as reality. We scrambled for chairs at an increased speed,
resulting in the expected griping, shoving and whining that we always heard.
After we had all found chairs, those who had not sitting on the floor, the room
quieted down and we all knew something was about to happen. Mr. Atkinson greeted
us with his usual easily relatable anecdote. The crowd seemed to settle
slightly, as if some energy had been lost when we saw that this new, exciting
lesson was going to begin just as all the two-plus-two, preamble to the
Constitution speeches had before it. But this lesson was more interactive. All
throughout the first few minutes of our meeting hands shot up fast and sometimes
naive, sometimes completely misinformed questions were launched at the three
male teachers at the front of the class. Sometimes the answers incited giggles,
while other times they induced debate, even looks of pure astonishment. After we
had covered the basics of the human anatomy, which happened slowly but sped up
when we were given a glimpse of what was to come, we moved on to some of the
even hotter topics among the boys on the playground, relationships and sex. It
started out fine, but I was in for a surprise. As the details of the lesson
became clearer, I found my stomach feeling somewhat unsettled. I pictured in my
mind all the things that the teachers were saying, and it was really disgusting
to me. The strange feeling in my stomach grew more intense, and before I knew it
I was queasy. It didn’t end there, because soon my head began to swim, and my
vision was fading in and out. I was scared not knowing what was happening to me,
so in panic I stood up weakly and slid my feet one in front of the other until I
was at the front of the room. I vaguely remember trying to tell Mr. Atkinson
that I didn’t feel good, but before I knew it I was falling to the ground.
Luckily the teacher caught me, and through eyewitness accounts that have been
related back to me more times than I like to think about I’m told he carried
me to the nurse’s office, where I regained consciousness on a small bed with a
paper-covered pillow, which crinkled as I moved my head. The nurse comforted me
and told me that I would be fine, and that my mom was on her way to get me and
take me home. Feeling reassured, I sat up and waited. Ten minutes later my mom
was hugging me tightly and worrying over my condition like almost any mother
would. I went home that night and ate dinner, which was of my choice that
evening, and then went to bed. I had no idea the teasing that would begin the
next day. All throughout recess wisecracks flew at me from all directions, and I
did my best to bounce them off me with my own schoolyard wit. The teasing
subsided a week or so later, and I, as a fifth grade boy, made up my mind not to
harass people about things that they couldn’t prevent.
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