“Adult” and “sex ed” are three words that sound terrible together at first glance. But lo and behold, O: The Oprah Magazine sat in on an adult sex ed class full of 40- to 60-somethings at the First Unitarian Church in Austin, TX, and one thing is for certain: bumbling teens aren’t the only ones with questions!
Unitarians are smart for realizing that learning about one’s sexuality is a lifelong pursuit. How to properly put on a condom preoccupies the young pups. New parents, an infertile couple, women who lost her breasts to mastectomies, and other grownups now realize that 45-minute lecture from the gym coach back in 10th grade left something to be desired!
I knew Unitarians were cool beans, but I didn’t realize they were this cool: The adult sex ed class at Austin’s Unitarian church is part of an initiative called Our Whole Lives: Lifespan Sexuality Education (OWL), which aims to integrate healthy sexuality into the whole self for peace of mind. In 1998, the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ began to teach the birds and the bees to kids ages 5 to 18, when they sought to address findings by the Kaiser Family Foundation that adults would like their children to be taught comprehensive sex ed. But over the course of the next decade, they realized adults wanted some lessons, too. In 2008, the OWL initiative filled that gap by offering the classes to adults ages 18 to 35. Surprisingly, though, adult sex ed has become increasingly popular for the middle-aged crowd.
In Austin, the grownups attend 14 adult sex ed classes at the church over seven months, which are taught by facilitators trained by OWL over three days. Together, the students analyze messages they learned as youngsters from school, friends and parents, and create timelines of their “big moments” in their own sexual history. But, perhaps most importantly, they talk about what isn’t taught in high school: pleasure. Yep, the merits (and demerits) of masturbation and porn are on the menu, too.
Before I actually read the O article, I assumed adult sex ed would be a soul-deadening offspring of abstinence-only sex ed, created to fill in the gaps purposely left vacant by those programs. But this sounds like such a great idea for a demographic that doesn’t read Ask Aunt Betty in Bust or The Frisky's Dr. V and probably doesn’t care for the Adam Corolla/Dr. Drew raunchiness of Loveline.
One sexuality educator who facilitates OWL classes told O, “Often the question behind a question in sexuality education, is ‘Am I normal?’” How smart of the Unitarians to recognize that when it comes to sex, teens aren’t the only ones asking that. [O: The Oprah Magazine]