Doesn’t everybody know about sex?

“A college class about sex? Don’t they already know about it, then?”

“I’ll just teach my kids everything they need to know.”

“Parents should really be the ones to teach their kids about sex.”

“So you think you can teach me something? Ha! So try then, try and tell me something I don’t know!”

“We have our regular teachers do the sex ed class. They’re adults, they know.”


Really? REALLY? I am so tired, so very very tired of this reaction when I tell someone I teach sexuality education professionally. I have specialized content knowledge that goes so far beyond what the average human – particularly the average American! – knows about sex it would astound you. Yes, I teach a full, semester long psychology course on human sexuality. My students rarely know even a small portion of the course content coming into class. The fact that someone is unable to conceive of how I fill a full 16 weeks of material only shows their own ignorance on the subject matter.

And parents? Yes, parents generally know more about human sexuality than their children, but they are less educated – substantially less educated – on the matter than I am. Do they have the capacity to learn what I know and then teach it to their children? Of course. But it would take substantial study into biology, psychology, human evolution, and sociology, because that’s what I’ve done. Can they just grab a book and give it to their children rather than sending them to a class? Of course. And it’s possible, even likely, that the author knows as much about human sexuality as I do. But there is a substantial educational difference between a conversation where a young person’s mind can wander and wonder with feedback and information from an expert compared to a book…or even scarier…the Internet!

And can I teach you something about human sexuality? You betcha! The last person to ask me this actually did not believe me that I could teach him something, he really wanted me to try. I gave him the opportunity to chose a general topic area…when he declined, said I could chose, I gave him an earful on herpes. In his stunned silence I decided to delve into gender identity, trans issues, and cis gender. I took a guess that he was completely unaware of anything I brought up, and I was correct. He left as quickly as he could. I am sure that when faced with the challenge to teach something new, I could find something for almost anyone.

Let’s address a school’s “regular” teachers. I’m sure that most of these individuals are quite skilled at teaching whatever it is they typically teach – Gym, Science, Math, English – just as I am skilled at teaching what I typically teach. Would I be able to teach English? Yes, of course. I speak and write well, I read extensively. Would I be able to teach English as effectively as an English teacher? No. I don’t have information about correct comma usage, literary analysis, etc. readily available, nor am I aware of exactly what is appropriate to expect of students at various ages. An English teacher would not have this information readily available regarding sexuality education, but I do.


My ultimate point is: Sexuality is a special content area, and it needs to be treated, respected as such.

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.


  1. This post made me really, really want to take your psychology course on human sexuality.

  2. I actually got one of those responses on a date!
    That date didn’t last long…

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