Sexual education in schools is one of the most discussed topics in North Macedonia. Until recently in the country, just the word “sex” was considered taboo. Adolescence is a period in life when people go through big physical, psychological, emotional and personality changes, that demand some kind of guidance to help young people understand the changes they are experiencing. False or partial knowledge can be dangerous, especially concerning sexual and personal relations with others, but also concerning personal boundaries.

With the introduction of sexual education in North Macedonia, a series of disinformation started to spread, with the aim of creating confusion for both parents and students regarding the need for such an education in the schools. In addition, young people are often unsure whether some statement heard or read somewhere related to sex or to personal relations with other persons and the environment, is true or a myth.

Therefore, in the new episode of “Why Is It (Not) So?” Meta.mk invited several experts and people familiar with the subject to explain why some things about Comprehensive Sexual Education (CSE) and sexual health are true or not.

These are several familiar myths and the most widespread pieces of disinformation about sexual education in schools:

No.1. Comprehensive Sexual Education is all about sex
Not true. In CSE, only one of the seven components included is the sexual and reproductive health. Sexual education also includes learning about domestic violence, how to recognize violence, how to become familiar with one’s own body, learning about sexually transmitted diseases, etc.
Sexual education teaches the teenagers to be responsible and more open to their own sexual needs and interests, including how to express and realize such urges in an adequate and safe way. At the same time, it teaches young people to be accountable for their own sexual health and introduces the possibilities for them to have adequate and positive attitude towards themselves as well as towards others.

No. 2. The introduction of sexual education in schools encourages and normalizes teenage sex.
Not true, because when something is widely talked about and is not taboo, young people tend to do it less. They learn about the risks, about the meaning of safe sexual intercourse, including the fact that is something that one should not do lightly, but really make informed and responsible choices which really means becoming sexually active much later. The fact is that sexual education shifts the age threshold of sexually active teenagers.

No.3. If he/she checks the messages on your phone, that is a sign that he/she loves you a great deal
Not true. Trust is a key part of a healthy relationship and under no circumstance is there any room for checking one’s phone.
Not respecting one’s privacy, including mistrust in the relations, are not a sign of love, but of fear and strong uncertainty in each other. When one loves us the way we are, there is no need for proof, confirmation or support with so-called love-evidence.

No.4. Comprehensive sexual education aims to substitute the role of parents in explaining sex
Not true. Nothing in the world can substitute a parent, including comprehensive sexual education. It does not even attempt to do so. CSE should be seen as an extended arm, an assistant to the parent, since quite frequently teenagers are simply reluctant to talk to their parent on such topics – which is understandable – but would rather talk to their peers or to someone who they feel is not so close to them as the parent. In addition, very often parents do not have information and thus find it difficult to talk to their children on such topics. It is not their fault, it simply is a system conditioned in such a manner for many generations.

In fact, we are talking about a chain – both teachers and parents teach, or at least should teach the students and children to know better their bodies, to learn about sexually transmitted diseases, to understand the physiology of their body, etc.

No. 5. Sexual education in schools teaches teenagers to be homosexuals
Not true. Comprehensive sexual education teaches us to accept each other as we are, and homosexuality is not something that can be learned. It is not something taught, nobody is forcing us to do anything, and the fact that CSE includes just a fraction on different sexual orientations, does not mean that it teaches someone how to be a homosexual.

No. 6. For her to love me, I must please her and pay all the time
Not true. Nobody shouldn’t please anybody all the time. Every relationship is somewhat of a compromise that demands a great deal of communication, trust and mutual respect. Neither pleasing someone, nor paying, are categories belonging to the qualities of a healthy relationship.

Pleasing or pleasuring are usually deemed learned patterns by which directly or immediately we transmit nonfunctional relations where love needs to be deserved. At the same time, prolonged pleasuring might suggest the need to always create the most beautiful and perfect impression in the relationship in order to earn love again. However, we are all aware that love cannot be earned as much as it happens.

No.: 7. It is shameful to have your first sexual experience when you are 20
Not true. Everyone should have their first sexual intercourse or first sexual experience whenever they feel ready. The first sexual experience happens when we have not just sexual, but also emotional and psychological maturity.

Nevertheless, we have our first sexualized experience in contact with ourselves, and after that in relations with others. Desirably, it should be realized in a relationship with a partner with whom we feel desired and appropriate and who respects our boundaries directed towards a positive liberating experience, instead of feeling somewhat harassed, insecure, exposed, threatened and hurt.

No. 8. Condoms are the best protection of unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases
True. The condom is the best contraception and the only one that simultaneously protects us from unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Consequently, every sexual intercourse should include a condom, unless we are planning to have children.

No.9. It is good to take contraception pills after every sexual intercourse – just in case
Not true. Our bodies differ – every body responds differently to contraception pills. For any kind of consumption or for any kind of protection, we must consult a gynecologist.

No. 10. I will be able to recognize if my partner has a sexually transmitted infection
Not true. All sexually transmitted infections have one thing in common – they all lack symptoms. Therefore it is very important to be regularly tested and no… We will never be able to recognize whether our partner has some kind of sexually transmitted infection.

No. 11. You cannot get pregnant while you have your period, nor if you have sex standing
Not true. There are women who got pregnant during their menstrual cycle, and no… it makes no difference whether you have sex in bed or standing. You can get pregnant in any position.

No. 12. Real men never cry
Not true. We are all people and every one of us has the same emotional capacity to feel. Therefore, if we feel something, or if something is burdening us, we should cry it out sometimes.

No. 13. Sexual harassment always includes physical contact
Not true. Sexual harassment exists even if there is no physical contact. The most frequent example is sexual harassment on the Internet, social networks and in chat rooms. We also experienced a case in our country when massive sexual harassment happened online.

Harassment is a subjective experience which is recognized by the existence of a tendency of ongoing abuse and degrading behavior of one person to another based on gender or sex for the purpose of acquiring power, strength and attention that otherwise would not be possible.