What did cavemen do for sex ed?

What have been the era appropriate messages?
09 February 2024


A condom



Has anyone ever wondered when/why humans started needing sex education. How did we survive through the transition from instinct to learning?


Thank you to UCL's Michael Reiss for the answer!

Michael - In many cultures, sex education has been undertaken outside of schools for as long as is known. Often near the time of puberty, girls and boys are separately initiated into adulthood. Girls are told about menstruation and sexual intercourse by their mothers or other adult females; boys are told about sexual intercourse by their fathers or other adult males.

With the increasing establishment of formal schooling over the last couple of hundred years, schools have often been expected to teach sex education. Precisely what the emphasis has been has varied greatly. For example, before the advent of antibiotics, a lot of emphasis was often placed on avoiding infection with gonorrhoea and syphilis. In the 1980s, the advent of HIV/AIDS meant that there was suddenly a shift towards teaching about HIV transmission and prevention. To this day, a frequent emphasis is on avoiding becoming a parent too early in life.

Surveys regularly show that parents support schools playing a role in sex education. Student evaluations frequently show that they aren’t very impressed with the sex education they receive in schools, reporting that their teachers are often embarrassed and not good at answering questions.


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