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My mother taught me everything about menstruation and nothing about sex. Sex education was taught by Mrs. Nagy, one of the few women in my Catholic high school in 1969 who wasn’t a nun.  She was tall, extremely thin and very nervous, as were all of her students. 

We sat and watched her in silence, with a mixture of curiosity and dread about the upcoming lesson. If we were expecting Mrs. Nagy to be a font of sexual information and relationship advice, we were soon to be sorely disappointed on both counts.

Her voice was deadly serious as she scanned the room, making eye contact with every one of us. “Never wear pearl necklaces,” she rasped, leaving us tense and confused. She paused, waiting for understanding to dawn. It didn’t. “Boys can see the reflection of your breasts in the pearls.” 

The elderly Mrs. Nagy (she was probably 40) went on to teach us about the physiology of sex.  Spoiler alert: she gave us colorful and scary but not helpful anatomical information about boys.

And relationship advice from Mrs. Nagy? It was simply: Boys always want “it” and will pressure you to give them “it” and you must never give them “it.” The end.  Every girl in that room knew exactly what “it” was.

Thus we were left to figure out everything on our own, often by conferring with each other. We were all equally lost and confused.

I offer these memories so that you can see women of my generation for the badasses we are and continue to be.  We looked around at a world that wanted to limit our sexuality and our power. We burned bras and fought for easy access to birth control and for control over our bodies.  We’re still fighting for our daughters and our granddaughters.

It’s why services that Planned Parenthood of Illinois offer are more important today than ever before. Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest provider of sex education, reaching 1.5 million people a year. Their educators cover a broad variety of topics related to sex and sexuality, exploring values and beliefs about those topics and gaining the skills that are needed to navigate relationships and manage one’s own sexual health.

If these services were available to me when I was a young person it would have avoided a lot of embarrassing and potentially dangerous situations. 

For more information about Planned Parenthood or to schedule a sexual health appointment visit www.plannedparenthood.org

Joan Esposito is the host of the Live, Local, and Progressive radio show on WCPT AM 820

Tags: sexeducation, sex education, talking about sex, comprehensive sex ed