Sex Education Myths and Misconceptions

Let’s talk about sex education.⠀

When I teach Psychology of Human Sexuality to college students, the students are often surprised at what they don’t know.⠀

I often hear, “I wish I had learned this before.”⠀

“Why wasn’t I taught this in school?”⠀

“My parents never talked about sex.”⠀

I got my sex education mainly through books I read as a teenager and young adult. Some of this information was factual, but some was harmful purity culture myths or shaming gender stereotypes.⠀

Taking psychology classes on sexuality and then later training in Sex Therapy were the main ways I gained a thorough sexual education in my adulthood. That’s why I’m passionate about providing holistic sexual education to Christians who missed out on it. ⠀

Here are some of the most common sex education myths and misconceptions that I see in my experience as a therapist and college professor of psychology.⠀


Sex Education Myth: Abstinence-only education is an effective form of sex ed.

Truth: Abstinence-only education robs us of the opportunity to learn holistic sexual education.

Abstinence-only education robs us of the opportunity to learn holistic sexual education.⠀

Did you have adequate knowledge of fertility and conception before adulthood?
What about information about the sexual response cycle?⠀
Orgasms?⠀
Your menstrual cycle?⠀
Pregnancy, delivery, and post-partum?⠀
Internal and external male and female genitalia?⠀
Birth control options and STI protection?⠀
How to develop your sexual ethic and make values-congruent choices?⠀

Do you fully understand these concepts now?

We cannot convince people to abstain from sex by withholding appropriate education and information from them. It doesn’t work.⠀

But it does rob us of the opportunity to learn important education we’ll need for our whole lives.

Abstinence-only education robs us of the opportunity to learn holistic sexual education.

Sex Education Myth: Most people who make a virginity pledge will keep their pledge.

Truth: Only about 12% of people who make a virginity pledge will be virgins when they marry.

Here’s more proof that abstinence-only education doesn’t work: only about 12% of people who make a virginity pledge will be virgins when they marry.⠀

I asked my parents for a True Love Waits ring when I was 14 and I signed the pledge. I have no regrets about making this personal commitment, but I do regret buying into the myths and false promises of purity culture and all of the cultural baggage that went along with it. ⠀

We cannot coerce or force people into making the decision for premarital sexual abstinence. It has to be their choice, made from a thoughtful evaluation of their beliefs and values. It has to come from prayer and their own personal faith.⠀

If we don’t allow people the space to examine their own beliefs and make their own decision, the pledge won’t work. And it won’t work without God.⠀

We cannot coerce or force people into making the decision for premarital sexual abstinence. It has to be their choice, made from a thoughtful evaluation of their beliefs and values. I

Sex Education Myth: Children need to reach a certain age before having the “sex talk.”

Truth: Sexual education with our children is not one big talk, but a million one-minute conversations.

Sexual education with our children is not one big talk, but a million one-minute conversations.⠀

I’ve heard this concept of a hundred one-minute conversations from Dr. Tina Schermer Sellers, a sex educator and researcher.

Sex education myths say the “sex talk” is one long conversation with our children once they become pre-teens (or even teens).⠀

Instead, sex ed starts at birth with using correct terminology for our children’s genitals, modeling consent in our interactions with them, and teaching them that God made their bodies beautiful and good.⠀

Sexual education with our children is not one big talk, but a million one-minute conversations.

I share more about this in my article “5 Ways to Teach Our Children Shame-free Sexuality”.


Sex Education Myth: Consent only applies to unmarried or uncommitted couples.

Truth: Consent is necessary at all stages of a relationship, including marriage.

“When it comes to a biblical marriage, consent is given in advance forever when spouses say their marriage vows.”⠀

WRONG.⠀

I saw this horrendous post on Instagram from a religious ministry denying marital rape and rejecting the concept of consent in marriage. (The opening quote is from them.)⠀

Consent is necessary at all stages of a relationship, including marriage. In marriage, we share sexual intimacy, rather than give and take. And in the process of sharing, we demonstrate consent in nonverbal and verbal ways.⠀

I commented on this organization’s post (which they promptly deleted without responding). Here is what I said:⠀

“I find [your post] very harmful and misguided. Consent is ongoing and not given once for all time. When you say your wedding vows, you are agreeing to enter into a covenant of sharing sexual intimacy with your spouse exclusively for life [that is the intention; there are exceptions]. But this does not give permission to force, coerce, manipulate, or pressure your spouse into sex. Sex must be freely and mutually shared. As a Christian psychologist, I am disturbed that you would deny the existence of marital rape and would urge you to rethink your position.”⠀

Consent is necessary at all stages of a relationship, including marriage.

Sex Education Myth: You don’t need sex education. God will bless you if you wait.

Truth: Sexual intimacy in marriage requires work, regardless of if you waited or not.

“You don’t need sex education. God will take care of it.”⠀

Sex is a learned skill. Sexual intimacy in marriage requires work, regardless of if you waited or not. Like everything in marriage, it takes mutual responsibility, teamwork, and communication to have a satisfying sex life. ⠀

You and your spouse can educate yourselves by reading and discussing books together, taking courses, listening to podcasts, and even seeing a licensed mental health professional, sex therapist, or marriage coach if you need additional support.⠀

I believe God can bless your marriage and your sex life. We should pray and invite God into our marriages and ask him to grow our intimacy in all areas.⠀

But why do we think sex is the one area that “just comes naturally” and doesn’t require any work?

Sexual intimacy in marriage requires work, regardless of if you waited or not.

Tell me in the comments: What has your sexual education been like? What sex education myths did you hear and what do you wish you had learned instead? How have you educated yourself now as an adult?


This blog is from a Sex Ed 101 series I shared on Instagram. Join me on Instagram for more posts like these!

Check out my other articles on sexuality and purity culture:

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