Sex Ed

From condoms to consent, sex education is supposed to teach teens and young adults across the country everything there is to know about staying safe while being sexually active. Ideally, sex education is inclusive of all genders, sexual orientations, and bodies. Sex should be discussed in a free and comfortable manner, thus normalizing it and removing stigma. The students should leave the class feeling more comfortable about their bodies and sexuality, armed with knowledge about sex, the human body and how to respectfully treat their peers. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for many students across the United States. Currently across the nation, sex education is being executed in an ineffective and often harmful manner.

Many college level students have yet to have a comprehensive sex education class and are therefore left to navigate their sex lives potentially misinformed. According to an article written by Ephrat Livini, “Abstinence-only sex education now comprises 23 percent of sex education in the public schools the United States, up from 2 percent of the total in 1988…” (Livini). This could have dangerous consequences for everyone involved or just leave them ignorant to basic knowledge about their own bodies. This is especially true for people with vaginas, as sex education is also supposed to cover topics such as menstruation and pregnancy.

My personal experience with sex education is one of confusion, inadequacy, fear mongering, as well as sexism and homophobia. I went to religious schools for both middle and high school. My first sex education class was in 5th grade and it was taught by a man. By the end of the year I still had no idea what a period was and thought I was dying when I first got mine. In 7th grade the teacher used a strip of tape to teach us the social dangers of being sexually active. She said the tape represented a girl. Then, the teacher went around the room sticking it to different boys until it eventually got too dirty and lost all of its adhesiveness, rendering it useless. The analogy she was making is that a woman loses her use if she has sex with many partners. There were countless exercises such as this, always shaming women/girls for their sexuality; never men. This teaches children that their worth lies in their vagina, which is an unhealthy concept to teach young kids. Not to mention how damaging this concept would be to a survivor of sexual assault or rape. A study by Dr.Lindberg, who is the principal research scientist at the Guttmacher Institute, concluded there has been a decline in the percentage of girls who learn how to say no to sex. Consent is a topic that is very important to discuss with young people of all genders. When consent is approached in sex education classes it often runs along the lines of what girls should do to avoid getting raped rather than teaching people how to properly get consent and respect others boundaries. Sexually transmitted diseases were used as a fear tactic. Image after image of gruesome STIs were flashed across the screen and an angry woman, by the name of Pam Stenzel, said we would get all of these and more if we had sex outside of the sanctity of marriage. Any sexuality, other than heterosexual, was only mentioned when discussing who gets to go to hell. Abortion was presented as an unnecessary evil committed by greedy women. We were shown a video with a fully formed baby doll (with hair and everything) coming out of cloth draped over two chairs (the woman) and when the baby’s head emerged the ‘doctor’ chopped its head off at the spinal cord. We were told that this is how abortion happened. Even though it is widely inaccurate, a group of middle-school-aged teens are not going to know enough to dispute the teacher. Only “19 states require that if provided, sex education must be medically, factually or technically accurate. State definitions of “medically accurate” vary, from requiring that the department of health review curriculum for accuracy, to mandating that curriculum be based on information from published authorities upon which medical professionals rely. The definition of medically accurate does not seem to be consistent or incredibly reliable. Even though many states require sex education, there are holes in this education leaving children ignorant or misinformed. “A large majority of states have developed curricula or guidelines to provide program guidance to local school districts in implementing sexuality education programs. “Many of these guides exclude such topics as abortion, homosexuality and masturbation because they are considered too controversial”. These gaps in sex education are unnecessary and can be more easily filled.

The danger in this form of sex education is fairly obvious. Young adults are entering college not having enough information on preventative measures such as condoms and birth control which could result in serious STIs or pregnancy. “…youth under age 25 experience about 9.1 million sexually transmitted infections“. LGTBQIA students never got the opportunity to discuss sex education and how it pertains to their lives. I have met people who genuinely think that lesbians cannot contract and pass STIs. Sex education presents sex as vagina and penis when this is not the reality for many LGTBQIA. Transgender and gender nonconforming individuals are not given the opportunity to learn about their sexuality and body. It is a fact that teens and young adults will be having sex regardless of how scary you make it sound. Therefore it is important that educators put in place safe spaces for these kids to have accurate and open information about sex and sexuality.

-Athena Androulakakis

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