Why I Teach Sex Ed: Getting Beyond Junk and Va-Jay-Jay

Mari Foster
by Mari Foster
If I could have a penny for each time I was introduced to a new way to reference a vagina, I would probably be able to drum up a game of Pac-man. One for every penile reference could definitely get me a dollar menu item from any fast food restaurant. In movies and television, from raunchy comedies like Superbad to more medically inclined shows like Grey’s Anatomy, the general public is fed euphemistic (and admittedly somewhat entertaining) alternatives for our sexual body parts. But when the time comes to really communicate with a partner or medical professional, referencing one’s “junk” or “va-jay-jay” just won’t cut it.
My first encounter with truly robust sexual education came in high school from a guest speaker. She entered the room and began with “Hello my name is Julia! I’m here today to talk about penises and vaginas. Are you ready?” At first we laughed, but then we got serious. Believe it or not, we may have even learned a thing or two! Julia helped me learn although it’s ok to giggle and fidget when talking about sexual health; that reaction doesn’t make the information any less important. Reproductive health is something that we will use throughout our entire lives. Like personal hygiene, sexual health is not something we can just ignore and hope will take care of itself. We can’t assume that the information we get from pop culture is correct… or even acceptable for everyone – sometimes it takes a real person standing there saying “It’s ok if you are different. Here is why…” to really make a lasting impression.

The beauty of teaching sexual education is that the content is relevant to all ethnicities and socio-economic statuses; it is applicable regardless of employment, educational background, or sexual orientation. The information is applicable for those who elect to abstain from sexual acts, and also for those who choose to fully engage their sexuality. Sexuality can be a tool, an asset, a weapon or a burden; it is up to the sexuality educators to explain all of these possibilities. I am lucky enough to be one of these sex educators. So ladies and gents, bring those “hoo-has” and “members” because we’ve got some minds to reach and some sex education to teach! 

6 Responses to “Why I Teach Sex Ed: Getting Beyond Junk and Va-Jay-Jay”

  1. Robin

    Hi Mari!
    LOVE this piece! Thank you so much for your candor on a subject that needs some resuscitation and remodelling in our culture. I am an organizer for Occupy Cultural Media http://www.occupyculturalmedia.org and we are looking for folks like you to be a guest on our blog!! Please let me know if you would be interested. You can also find us on Facebook!!
    In good faith,
    Robin Harris Rickard

  2. Courtney

    Amazing job, Mari! As a fellow sexuality educator, I think proper terminology is of utmost importance. Somewhere along the line, we forgot that penises and vaginas are simply another part of our bodies-not some strange alien additions. Thanks for all your hard work! Keep it up! 🙂

    Planned Parenthood of Central Oklahoma

  3. Anonymous


    Great message! My rhetoric professor claimed that communication is impossible and that all we ever do is the best we can. Using accurate words certainly helps make the impossible a little more possible.


  4. Anonymous

    Oh man that last paragraph couldn’t have been said more perfectly! (the ending line made me chuckle) What a great message Mari. Keep up the amazing work you do education our community!

    Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mts