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Even though I went to a public middle school in Portland, Oregon, which people think of as being so liberal, we had abstinence-based sex ed.

They hired an outside organization called the STARS Program [Students Today Aren’t Ready for Sex].

They had this very different lens of talking about how people interact with each other and that included a lot about sex, too, and relationships.

That’s when I really started to explore what kind of relationship I wanted and how I wanted to show up to those kinds of relationships with other people.

I remember some of my classmates asking really basic questions about what was happening with their bodies and the instructors were just like, “Well, you don’t need to worry about that.” It made everyone even more confused than they were before, because suddenly it was bad to talk about it.

According to Planned Parenthood’s that it would favor funding programs that emphasized “sexual risk avoidance”-political gobbledegook for “abstinence.”I spoke to five people-who also grew up shortly after the onset of the AIDS epidemic-about how sex education (or lack thereof) impacted their sexual identities, their relationship to consent, and their understanding of HIV/AIDS and other STIs.I had my first sex ed class when I was 18 and in the 12th grade.By that time, there was nothing you could necessarily tell me about my body and sex that I didn’t already know.From Esquire I was 13 when I had my first sexual experience with another guy. The symptoms were ordinary-a few coughs, a runny nose-but that didn’t stop me from working myself into a panic.I was convinced I had contracted HIV/AIDS, and would soon be dead.

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