Our school had the most amazing teachers. They were our friends. We trusted them; they made us feel like it was okay to talk to them about anything and created a safe, judgment-free space for us to run to and vent. A lot of us owe who we are today to them. It was due to their help and encouragement as much as it was our parents’ that we are who we are now. They were always there for us when we needed someone to ground us and tell us when we’ve been wrong. And they were also there every step of the way as we worked to right those wrongs.
One day they decided that it was time we have sex ed classes in school. We were in grade 11, so not that young, just old enough to start learning about these things, old enough to hear the answers to our questions and understand that there was nothing wrong with asking those questions as long as we asked the right people.
The teachers I’m talking about were doctors, actual doctors who went through years of medical school and learned all there was to learn about the human body. They knew what they were doing. And they wanted to do it right. They sent out emails to our parents to ask for permission to conduct these sessions on a somewhat regular basis. It was totally up to the families to decide whether they want their kid to learn or not. The emails included the set up they’d planned, how they wanted to run the classes, some of the topics that might come up during our discussions and of course reassurance that this is to be strictly educational and that they would make sure that it stays that way. They made sure to make it clear to the parents that it was totally their decision and that the parent who didn’t want their kid to participate in those classes was required to send a note/an email to the GDS.
The classes started and after they talked to our parents, our teachers and the headmistress gathered us to explain what was going to happen. They led with how important they think these classes are and how they want to make them a regular thing for our sake because they think that it will be a great help to us. They also told us that if we didn’t take this seriously, they would stop doing it. And on the awaited day, we were separated into girls who went with Dr. X (who was a woman btw) and the guys went with Dr. Y (who was a man). That was the agreement. We were to be separated to avoid any awkwardness and to that we’d feel comfortable talking and asking the questions we want.
We gathered and talked and we asked the questions and to my surprise (now, because back then that was normal) most of the questions the girls and I asked were questions stemming from misconceptions that were inferred from watching movies and reading books, some were from the internet and others were from our girl friends who used to act all-knowing about these topics and offer to tell us all about it. Dr. X addressed our questions without undermining them or shaming us for going to our friends or looking for help from google. She was very considerate of our feelings and knew exactly what to say to us, a bunch of 15 and 16 year-olds, and how to say it. She didn’t laugh or cringe and she didn’t act like it was outrageous of us to be asking these questions and seeking knowledge in topics we knew nothing about.
I am a 20 year old girl who’s spent all her life in Egypt. I have spent 7 years of my educational life in an all girls school, and 4 in a co. school. I have seen both sides. Been through every confused stage a middle school girl, teenage girl and college girl could go through. I know what we do to get information. And I know how frustrating it is for us, boys and girls, to have questions that we are just too uncomfortable but mostly scared to talk to our parents about. I also know the kind of pressure that is put on us when all or the majority of our friends already know what there is to know about these kinds of topics and we’re the only ones standing there with no idea what they’re talking about.
I know what goes on in our minds and I know what it feels like to be mocked, ridiculed and almost always yelled at when topics like these are brought up because how dare you begad?!
I also know that when there is a question on our minds, especially when we’re teenagers, we don’t stop until we get the answer. We go to such great lengths to get those answers that by the time we finally reach them, we don’t care where they are from we just care about the fact that we found them.
My teachers started telling me how to pick good reliable sources for my research papers in grade 10. Some people, up until this moment when almost all my friends are in college, don’t know how to pick sources for their research papers. They are surprised when I tell them what sites they should trust and what sites they shouldn’t. And from my experience, teenagers who are not told where they should be looking, look in the worst of places. I looked in the most awful places, honestly and it got me nowhere.
The questions that come to the mind of every living teenager are not 3eib and we should’ve never been embarrassed by them or scolded/ shamed because we were merely curious. We should’ve never been afraid to ask and learn about how bodies, how they function and how to take care of them.
The idea that talking about anything that contains the topic of the “human body” in Egypt is considered a taboo or haga ‘3eib’ should not be a thing; it should never have affected our relationships with our parents and grandparents as much as it has and it shouldn’t affect our relationships with our future kids/nephews and nieces. The stigma of hiding away your curiosity and looking for answers from unreliable sources that either gets you more confused than you already are or turns you into someone who thinks rape in something that is the victim’s fault and that is okay to be joked about should stop NOW.
So yeah I say we educate ourselves, I say we look for people we trust and ask them. Seek their guidance on where to go and who to talk to if they are uncomfortable talking about it or if they don’t know enough to tell you what you want to know. But seriously guys, the internet is no place to be learning about your bodies, because this is how the innocent learning and curiosity turns into hagat haram begad, and we don’t want that. Don’t let them tell you that curiosity killed the cat. Don’t get me wrong but most probably that cat went looking through the internet and ended up in bad places, so as long as you stay off the internet/ do it without the supervision of someone who knows which sites to go to in order to get the right information/ you yourself know which sites to look for, you shouldn’t be doing it. It’ll do more harm than good, believe me. Pick a role model, a trusted individual, someone you look up to who you know will never ridicule the way your mind works or your somewhat silly questions, pick someone who understands that you just want to learn. And allow them to help you.
I think we all desperately need this. We need to know more because most of us grew up with conservative parents who made our curiosity seem like a crime. We need to do this so that we can be the trusted people future kids come to. Your future nephews and nieces and kids of friends and family will come to you one day and you should be responsible enough to handle it better than your parents/teachers/ mentored did. You should be able to answer their questions, tell them exactly what they need to hear and put their minds at ease. You need to be the trusted individual who will tell them where to look if you can’t answer all their questions w msh hatefty 3ashan da msh topic yatahammal el fatyye khales. You owe it to yourself first and foremost to not be ignorant and afraid.