A very hot-button issue that has brought feminists to the forefront is comprehensive sex education. It is something that Jessica Valenti defends vehemently in the notable Full Frontal Feminism, and that many teens have written passionately about here on the F-Bomb. As someone who believes that ignorance should be avoided at all times and that the current state of education is largely condescending to high school students, I have always been on the defensive side on this issue as well.
In the past month, I have experienced sex ed at my public high school, and my defense of comprehensive sex education has become infinitely more fervid. The majority of my friends, including the three that I spend my health class with, are virgins. Out of the four of us, none of us are in relationships and have not been in relationships in which we felt a desire to lose our virginity. Two of us are fully supportive of premarital sex; the other two are more divided, as their parents oppose the action. None of us were planning to have sex in high school, although we were not opposed to the idea and would not judge any of our peers by the action. It seemed like a perfectly okay thing to do, if you were confident that you wanted to have sex with your partner and you used protection and whatnot. Right?
Our teacher educated us on prevalent STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) and their transmission and (grotesque) symptoms. The three girls I was with and myself all have A or A+ averages in school, are fairly eloquent, and informed on basic current events. None of us, though, knew a thing about syphilis or oral herpes before this lesson.
The best part about this, though, was that our health teacher spoke to us in a way that she made it sound like it was okay if we had had sex at the time. She was not condescending. It was awesome. I’d always imagined sex education would be like that scene in Mean Girls where the gym teacher says: “Do not have sex, because you will get pregnant and die!”
I can now say with confidence that comprehensive sex education is far more effective than abstinence-only. I have read dozens of accounts and excerpts of abstinence-only sex ed lessons, and they are, in my limited experience, far less realistic. Telling kids they shouldn’t have sex “just because” doesn’t get anything done; most teens inherently want to rebel against what they’re supposed to do. Besides, expressing the unpleasantness of genital warts and painful urination are far more effective than just saying that something is “bad.”
The bottom line, applicable to this just as much as any other (as in, every) issue that effects teens: if we are treated like mature adults, with rights and opinions, we are far more likely to listen to what you have to say.
Alexa also writes for her own blog Blossoming Badass