Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sex Education

When I was in eleventh grade, our high school hosted an all-school assembly. It wasn't sponsored by the school, and the topic of the assembly was not publicized. We were just informed that there was an assembly and we walked with our classes to the auditorium.

The program was produced by a community group, and several students from Oregon City High School, who were members of the group, put on the assembly for us. It was well-rehearsed, engaging, and funny. And, it was about sex. This was twenty-one years ago, and I still clearly remember the skit where boys and girls were paired together to demonstrate how to properly put on a condom. The girls had giant life-sized condoms that they put over their partners' entire bodies, making sure to leave extra room at the head. I rather enjoyed the production.

When I stepped off the school bus that afternoon, I saw my mom waiting in the doorway of our house. Oh, great, I thought. I wonder what I'm in trouble for now. It didn't occur to me that she would've heard of the assembly. But she had. Apparently, several of my Follower classmates had reported the mandatory assembly to their parents, who had activated the frantic calling of all the parents, and dozens of complaints to our school.

Followers are not allowed to participate in sex education classes or class content. It's on our "yellow cards" along with the exemption from having inoculations and medical treatment. No sex ed.

The stigma started in fifth grade when the schools show the students videos about menstruation and puberty. We were to be sent to the library during these videos. Ug. My mom let me stay home from school that day. Good thing, because I would've died of embarassment. And, I wanted to see that video!

In eighth grade, we got an extra elective class while our classmates took sex ed. Same deal in high school. The extra elective was nice, but I wanted some facts. The idea was that if we knew about sex, we would be tempted to have sex.

So, the policy of the Followers was to marry kids off in the late teens, still virgins. The "sex talk" would happen a week or so before the wedding. They thought we wouldn't figure anything out before then. But I'm a rebel, and being told I couldn't/shouldn't know something just made me want to know even more. I heard about "rubbers" from school kids in junior high, so I asked one of my wiser Follower friends what a rubber was, and she told me it was a piece of rubber that you rub on yourself to keep from getting pregnant.

The same year that we were "forced" to watch that infamous assembly, I had a science class with only worldly people. It was the only class I took in high school where I was the only Follower. The teacher seemed pretty obsessed with our church too. He always made a point to come over and talk to us in the cafeteria. So, one day he announced in front of the class that he was going to talk about sex, and that there was a group of kids who were members of the "Followers of Christ" church that were to be excused from this portion of the class. What? Dude, he knew that I was the only one and he had to single me out. I was not going to stand up and say, "Oh, you mean me? OK." In hindsight, I wish I would've had the guts to do it, but I didn't. I was a teenager and a) wanted to know the facts and b) didn't want to be singled out. Sheesh.

So, maybe you're wondering if all this lack of knowledge worked? In my opinion, it wasn't the lack of knowledge that kept most of us from having sex. It was the fear and consequences attached to the sex act. If we had sex before marriage we faced: shunning in this life and Hell in the next, but perhaps more pressing than those consequences was the loss of a church wedding.

Church weddings were only for virgins and included huge rewards - the wedding services were free (though things like dresses and flowers were paid for by the bride's parents), beautiful, attended by all, lots of fun - including a dance with a live band. The bride received housewares and a new wardrobe for her shower, the groom received money (enough to pay his church membership) for his "bachelor party" (which was attended by men--and I'm told--very tame). For the wedding, the couple typically received all the furniture for their new home (living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom - everything), and enough money to pay for the honeymoon and then some. It was a prize worth waiting for.


  1. I guess I'm more shocked by the fact that 20 years ago you had any sex ed classes in high school. I grew up in the bible belt, and the only thing I remember was the video about VD that was supposed to scare us into not having sex. As for the wedding, that is a huge reward for virginity! Other than the lack of information, I'm not thinking this is a bad deal at all.

  2. I wonder if that was the same biology teacher I had. I had the same last name and I was sent to the library to read or do a lame assignment while the rest of the class learned about sex.

  3. Ok - gotta say, my first impression for which high school teacher was Mr. Rudy - how aweful to put you in that position. I don't think that it is just Followers that shun talking with their teens about sex, sad how many still go without proper knowledge.

  4. No, it wasn't Mr. R. I won't to say which teacher it was, but maybe this will help other teachers understand how awkward it is to be singled out publicly. I'm a teacher myself and I know it is a difficult/precarious position to be in when balancing your curriculum with parent expectations.

  5. You've mentioned having live bands play special events a few times now. Was the band made up of fellow church members? Or were these "worldly" bands?

  6. The bands were made up of teenage boys and/or men from the church. There were several bands, quite good all of them. Of course, no women were allowed to do this. Worldy people were never invited on the premises. All work was done by insiders.

  7. I have to say that the FOC have some pretty good practices when it comes to keeping teens engaged in the church. They seem to provide a lot of social support for that age group and ways of keeping them out of typical teen trouble.

  8. just would the church or anyone know if you were not a virgin?

    I graduated in 84 from OCHS and remember the other students from the FOC. They never talked or socialized with any of us "others" but I sure was curious about them. I had quite a few FOC girls in my sewing class and they were the majority. Do you have to be born into the church or can anyone join?

  9. Good point...some people did have sex before marriage, kept it a secret, and got a church wedding (I know this because they later confessed). I don't think the guilt would be worth it, personally. With that closed group (you have to be born in the church), it's hard to keep secrets.

  10. What would they do if j showed up on a Sunday, or when ever there is service, would they not let me in? And why could you not learn from school?

  11. If an outsider comes into the building, people stop and stare. A male leader will ask what the person wants and ask them to leave. If all else fails the entire congregation may just get up, leave, and cancel church for the day. They didn't want us learning about sex because they didn't want us to have sex before marriage.

    1. As an amendment to this. Unless you get up and try to preach, they won't cancel the sing along.

  12. I remember that assembly, they were determined to get us in that assembly. They knew very well how it was going to go over, that always confused me. Why, they knew we were celibate, or should have been. I was really disappointed in the teachers who were standing guard to keep us in there. I know it sounds ridiculous, but they might as well have made me watch the slaughter of an infant. It was disturbing for me. Not the learning about sex, but the attitude of the teachers who participated in making sure that WE were there.

  13. Wow. And here I thought being and ex-mormon was difficult. I applaud you for your honesty.

  14. This is a great blog. Delving into the world of what I always think of as "The Crazy"; whether it be fanatical religious groups, Nazis, North Korea, or serial killers; I always find fascinating. I dunno why. I guess it is half like watching a train wreck, and half out of curiosity. I have no problems with Christians, per se. Only when they attempt to use government power to enforce laws based on their belief system that is an outright violation of the First Amendment of separation of church and state. I have no problem with what someone else wants to believe in: Whether it is Christan, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, or Satanist so long as they remain harmless. I can even go so far as to respect someone else's belief system. It is, afterall, who they define themselves to be. Not all Christians are crazy. In fact, very few of them are. Not all Muslims are crazy. In fact, very few of them are as well. It is the crazy, fanatical ones that I find.....fascinating. And not necessarily in a positive way. And I have great respect for someone who was born and raised, and knew nothing better before becoming an adult, who has decided to breakaway from such fanaticism. And for that, I congratulate you. (Even if you are still a Christian, lol ;) )

    I have recently come to terms with the fact that I am, afterall, an atheist. And thinking back on my childhood, I guess I have always been atheistic. I was born and raised in the Catholic Church, but always had this profound incredulity at some church practices, and later, the Bible itself when I decided to pick it up and actually read the danged thing. An example of why I know I harbored this unbelief all along even though I tried to pretend I did not:

    The Catholic Church has this belief that, just before communion when the priest would bless the bread and the wine, there was always a "miracle" that would occur when the bread turned into Jesus' actual flesh, and the wine into his actual blood. And that if you prayed hard enough, and believed hard enough, you would actually SEE it happen. Well, just like with a Ouija Board, you can imagine my disappointment when nothing happened. Then I would eat the stuff, and it just tasted like stale bread. Basically like cardboard. It was gross. And I had to endure that BS until I was a teenager. Church was boring.

    I always considered myself to be a "Christian" until about 5 years ago. Then I considered myself an agnostic until the past few months. I finally decided to stop fooling myself, and now officially consider myself to be an atheist at the age of 30. The Bible is just a collection of old stories, written by old men 2000 years ago, and it has absolutely no bearing on my life right now in modern times. The earth revolves around the sun, and the sun around the galaxy. The solar system is 4.5 billion years old, and the universe is about 13 billion. Man evolved from ape-like creatures, which in turn, evolved from other animals. Nothing in this great universe of ours is the result of any sort of "magic." We can explain how things work, and why. Neither gods nor goddesses need apply.


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