Sex-ed. We hear that word a lot, but who really knows what sex-ed is? It’s short for “sexual education,” but what’s that? According to my handy dandy dictionary, sex education is: “education about human sexual anatomy, reproduction, and intercourse and other human sexual behavior.” Lots of words, but it’s pretty much learning about the human body and its reproduction. Pretty much straight forward, right? Wrong.
I know how un-straightforward sex-ed is, probably more than any other blogger you read. That’s because I attended health class, every day, for 20 weeks less than a year ago. Every single morning at 7:40am I was in Mr. Hanson’s (he requested I not use his real name) class for 46 minutes. Monday-Friday from December all the way to February, I had to sit in this class. This was a chance for New York State and Pittsford Central School District (the place where I go to school) to tell me everything they think I should know, or more importantly, not tell me what they think I shouldn’t know. We covered everything from eating habits, to drugs, to sex. Overall I can’t complain too much about it. When it came to the sex-ed part, Mr. Hanson made sure I knew “the consequences of engaging in sexual activity and the benefits of choosing abstinence.” Though it mostly focused on abstinence, our curriculum included the word condom, but pretty much nothing on birth control, even Plan B. Either way, I think Mr. Hanson did a pretty good job teaching what he was supposed to, and luckily what he was supposed to teach us was generally true. Sadly that isn’t the case in many of today’s sex-ed classroom.
Over the past several months I’ve talked to hundreds of youth, adults, and educators from around the country about their sex-ed experiences. From this I learned that I had a pretty good sex-ed class, even though Mr. Hanson’s curriculum didn’t acknowledge the existence of non-heterosexual sex, or that condoms are almost 100% reliable if people use them correctly. Even though during those 20 weeks I never heard the words dental dam, or received instructions on how to correctly put a condom on, I still had a “great” curriculum compared to most.
One of the worst stories about a sex-ed class came from a teen living in Utah. I met Emma this summer and she told me about a video she had to watch in her middle school sex-ed class. The video was about two people getting married. Not too bad, marriage is pretty normal and all. Sadly this video was anything from normal. It started with a man and woman about to get married, but before they did, they exchanged tennis shoes. The man’s shoes were nice and clean, while the woman’s were scuffed up and dirty. The man says to the woman “it looks like you let the whole football team run in these” and she responds by saying “but I made them all wear socks.” Right as the video ended, the man decided to break off the marriage with the girl.
In this video the tennis shoes represented their virginity. The man chose not to engage in premarital sex, so his “shoes” were nice and clean. The woman was supposed to have been sexual active with some football players, so her “shoes” were dirty. She explained that she made them wear “socks,” (or condoms) but the man was still mad her “shoes” weren’t as clean as his. As a result he couldn’t follow through with the marriage. This video, that a school district in Utah feels is important for every middle school kid to watch, is saying that if you have premarital sex (even with a condom) no one will want to marry you. Though some people may not be comfortable dating or marrying someone who had premarital sex, this video is blatantly untrue for that majority of Americans. Some studies put the number of people who have premarital sex as high as 95%. If a result of premarital sex was no one wanting to marry you, there’d be a lot more singles out there and a lot less weddings to attend. Though it might be nice not to have to buy another toaster or blender for all those people, this video does nothing but lower the self esteem of teens that someday may have premarital sex.
This is only one example of the misinformation sex-ed classes give American students every day. It’s been proven time and again that abstinence only sex-ed, where the entire curriculum is designed around telling teens not to have sex until marriage, does not work. Most of these curriculums don’t talk about contraception or STD/STI prevention at all. As a result teens are left starved for information about sex. One study in Wisconsin (where, up until recently, they had an abstinence only curriculum) showed that teen girls believed that one of the best ways to rid themselves of gonorrhea was to sit in bleach. Teens need a place that they can go and get real information on sex that they don’t get in school. Whether that be information about treatments of STD/STI’s (which do not include bleach!), information about contraception, or anything else about sex, Scarleteen provides it.
Though I hope for a day when every teen in America will be educated about sex by a highly trained professional in health classes with a comprehensive sex-ed curriculum, I don’t see that coming anytime soon. Until that happens Scarleteen is vital for today’s teens, but for that to happen they need your help. The site receives no government funding, which means you can get real information about sex without any interference from today’s politicians. Because Scarleteen doesn’t receive government funds though, it also means that they need your help to continue working to educate today’s youth and young adults. Please do your part and make a small contribution to this fantastic site today. To find out more about how to donate to Scarleteen, please click here.