Behind the Iron Curtain part 10 – Sex Ed

These are my recollections of a life behind the iron curtain. I do not aim to give perfect and objective evaluation of anything, but to share my personal experiences and memories. It will explain why I just cannot get misty eyed over some ideas on the political left and why I loathe many ideas on the right.

This is another one of the issues where the current US divide between left and right amuses me greatly. If you ever saw the movie “Red Heat” you will probably remember Arnold Schwarzenegger in his role as a Soviet agent turning on TV in a cheap American hotel and upon seeing porn uttering the word “Capitalism!” with utmost sneer in his voice. That scene rings so true to me.

The regime’s attitude to sex and sex education was abysmal. You see, sex is pleasurable to the individual, and as such informing the populace about how it is supposed to work could not be easily spun into a way to advance the greater good. Pornography was illegal and erotica very strictly regulated. And sex education almost non-existent.

Well, that is not entirely true. Sex ed was compulsory. But non-existent at the same time.

In the seventh class of elementary school, the biology classes were focused on human anatomy. Towards the end of the year part of the curriculum was about sexual and reproductive organs and some sex education thrown in.

The sex education part was gender segregated. Girls were shown some educational video whose details I do not know. Some boys tried to listen at the windows and from them I know that it probably consisted mostly of information about expected changes in body chemistry and shape during puberty, and nothing more.

Boys had even less informative session, which I missed completely due to illness. All I know from highly bemused accounts from my schoolmates is that instead of the rather good diagrams in books the whole issue was explained on a picture of a tulip. Really. Bees and flowers. At school. In 1980s.

At no point whatsoever were the “technicalities” of sex mentioned. No mention of consent and how it is supposed to work, no mention about how condoms are used and what other options of contraception there are, no mention of how the body parts actually fit into each other. So all of this info had to be learned from surroundings, either from family members or from peers. Which has of course led to great variation between individuals.

Info about consent came mostly from media and from peers, with all the masculine garbage that is the stupid “yes means yes, no means try harder”.
Use of condoms had everybody to gleam from rare articles that might be written in some magazine for adults or to figure out for themselves. Oh, and the stupid “it’s woman’s responsibility to not get pregnant” was part of the package too.

How the sex itself is supposed to work everybody learned from pornographic magazines smuggled in from west. People who did not get lucky to see porn or grow up in the country  might end up completely unable to actually perform sexual act properly, as was attested in the book Lidská sexualita (Human sexuality) by sexuologist Ivo Pondělíček and his wife Jaroslava Pondělíčková-Mašlová, who bemoaned that in the 1970’s multiple adult pairs came through his office who were unable to conceive child and during the courses he learned that they did not even know that for a woman to conceive the penis must enter the vagina. At least one such pair were people with university diplomas.

All in all it is no wonder that in my relatively small social circle I knew two girls who became pregnant shortly after the age of consent (15 years) and that it was all too common that girls got pregnant and married quite young. There are no precise statistics, because the regime did not keep tabs on things that reflected on it unfavourably, but I would not be suprised if today’s Texas came out better in this regard.


  1. says


    but I would not be suprised if today’s Texas came out better in this regard.

    It wouldn’t. The more secular a state is, you see rates of teen pregnancy drop; the more religious, the higher teen pregnancy goes. Texas is pretty steeped in virulent christianity. This is the state who gets to decide what goes into textbooks and what doesn’t, and at one point, they wanted to take Thomas Jefferson out because not christian enough. For a long time, this woman sat on the board of education there. Then there’s this mess.

    I’m sure you can imagine what sex-ed is like in Texas.

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