Assoc. Arts & Culture Editor
Who else remembers the scene in “Mean Girls” where the gym teacher tells his sex ed class, “If you touch each other, you WILL get chlamydia… and die” and then proceeds to write chlamydia on the board, “K-L-A…”?
While this line may be one of countless memorable lines in the movie, Tina Fey probably had something going while she was writing that scene. In fact, it could even serve as a parody to the inaccuracy of sex education in high school (heck, the guy even misspelled “chlamydia”). This scene may have been an exaggeration of sex ed in real life for the sake of comedy, but it’s still likely that real sex ed teachers didn’t have all their facts straight or even didn’t tell students all they needed to know about sex.
According to an article published by the Huffington Post late last year, “Only 22 states in the U.S. mandate sex education, and of those, a mere 12 mandate sex ed that is medically accurate!” Sometimes, students enter college still having no educational insight on the basic aspects of sex. Just ask Dr. Paul Joannides, a college sex educator who states, “Being in a room with 300 or 400 students, I’ll ask, ‘How many of your parents, when you were little or growing up, told you what a clitoris was?’ The response to this question is usually, very few.”
In a society where the current generation of teenagers is apparently obsessed with sex, and certain regions in the United States hold a prominent belief in an “abstinence-only” approach to sex ed, what are some important aspects about sex that teachers in high school glossed over or simply didn’t bother to teach?
1) The Real Meaning of Consent
Consent is a major component of sex, whether you’re a man or a woman. In high school sex ed, it’s typically taught as “If a woman says no, it means no.” Good intention, but misses the point of consent. Mark Manson of the online magazine thoughtcatalog.com says, “[That phrase] continues to frame sex in a ‘Women get to decide, you have to convince them,’ perspective … This isn’t consent, it’s mutually reinforced manipulation.” So, how should schools teach about consent instead? Manson continues, “Sexual intentions and desires should be stated clearly from the get-go by both parties … Kids should be taught that there’s nothing shameful about saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and that they should not be ashamed nor shame someone else for saying either.” On this issue, the site healthysexandyou.com writes in big bold letters, “NO ONE HAS THE RIGHT TO MAKE YOU FEEL BAD FOR SAYING NO. If you hear a ‘no’, oh well, go on about your day.” Communication is key in sex, as well as being able to read those communication cues in a mature way.
2) Sex isn’t Just a Physical Activity
Yes, there’s a lot of science involved in sex. And it’s a very physical activity. However, sex ed should be more than just STIs, STDs, pregnancy, hormones, the parts of the genitals and learning how to put a condom on a banana. It should also teach students the emotional and psychological aspects of sex (after all, psychology is a science too). “Sex ed should account for the recreational, social and emotional reasons for sex and their consequences,” Manson writes. “It should discuss the interpersonal meaning of intercourse, setting clear expectations and boundaries, communicating desires, dealing with feelings of shame and awkwardness, and of course, being responsible about protection and privacy … This sounds so obvious when you say it. Yet no one seems to say it.”
3) Gay People Have Sex Too
According to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, about 5 percent of high school students identify themselves as gay. However, most high schools that teach sex ed do not talk about homosexuality, and when they do, they usually cover it in a negative way. Therefore, students that identify themselves as gay are not getting the proper information about how to keep themselves safe during sex. CollegeCandy.com, a website that’s dedicated to informing college women about life and love, states, “Gays and lesbians have sex too, so why aren’t they being taught about sexual health and education? Why can’t we have a program that teaches about all aspects of sex, not just penis in vagina sex?”
4) Abstinence is Great, but Don’t Shame Students Who Have Sex
The most traditional approach to high school sex ed is “abstinence-only.” Yes, abstinence from sex is the only way to completely protect yourself from contracting STDs and STIs or becoming pregnant. However, many high school students have the strange habit of rebelling and doing the opposite of what they are told, so even if they are told “Don’t have sex,” they’re likely going to have sex anyway (part of the reason why “abstinence-only” is so controversial). However, they shouldn’t shame students who have sex, because it is a natural part of life, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to experience it and experiment with it, as long as students do it safely. Manson puts it best: “Sex is not a reflection of your value as a person.”
5) Why Not Talk about Contraception?
According to various health sources, 17 is the average age in which teenagers start having sex. However, according to New York University’s genyu.net, “46 percent of teen males and 33 percent of teen females did not receive any instruction on birth control before they first had sex.” If high schools truly want to prevent teenagers from becoming pregnant, why not talk about other ways to prevent pregnancy other than just abstinence? While there is no perfect method of birth control as they all have their own pros and cons, most birth control pills are between 97 to 99% effective in preventing pregnancy. Additionally, Bedsider, an initiative started by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, has helped to create a network for women who have questions about birth control.
Of course, the best place to get the best and most trusted information regarding sex health is a doctor and even Millersville’s own Health Services. However, sites such as www. everydayhealth.com, www.goaskalice.columbia.edu, bedsider.org and healthysexandyou.com are also reliable sources of information.