UA-76843172-1

Putting the ‘sex’ back in PA’s sexual education

Molly Carl
Head Copy Editor

I am 22 years old, and I still don’t understand my vagina.

Yeah, I get the basic premise and even some of the functionality, but I certainly didn’t learn either in a sex education course. Why, you ask? Well, since sex ed is not a required course of study in Pennsylvania, my high school chose not to partake and, as a result, my sexual education kind of fell by the wayside.

I mean, we had the generic talks in fifth and sixth grade to the tune of, “Your body will be going through some changes soon, so don’t Hulk out on us when it does,” but as for how the stuff down there actually works, we were left hanging.

An example of incorrect sex ed. in the classic film, ‘Mean Girls’. (Photo courtesy of uclu.org).
An example of incorrect sex ed. in the classic film, ‘Mean Girls’. (Photo courtesy of uclu.org).

Now, I’m not saying that I would have enjoyed sitting down with my rather intimidatingly mannish gym coach in sixth grade to learn all the ins and outs of the vagina and general female reproductive system; all I’m saying is that, in the long run, it would have been beneficial.

I remember getting my period at 13 and being utterly ashamed and humiliated that something so horrific had happened to my body. I felt like Carrie White in the locker room showers; sure, I understood that periods were a thing that happened to women, but the logistics were never really explained, and I CERTAINLY thought they were never something that would happen to me; my sex education was so poor that I didn’t even know that almost all women get them.

According to the website Sex, Etc., a website devoted to all things sexually educating, notes several disturbing facts about the sex ed “programs” schools are required to conduct:

• Pennsylvania state law does not require sexuality education. Local school boards decide whether or not to teach sex ed, which subjects this education must cover and the grade level in which topics are introduced.

• Teaching about… contraceptives, such as condoms, the Pill, or the Patch, is not required.

• Pennsylvania received $1,642,951 in federal funds for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in Fiscal Year 2010.

• Abstinence must be covered and stressed as the only completely effective protection against unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS when transmitted sexually.

This greatly troubles me, not only because schools are teaching about abstinence instead of contraceptive methods, but also because the state received federal funding to do so.

Now, the problem here is the fact that people are still going to do what they want to do whether or not they’re permitted to do so. If teenagers want to have sex, they’re going to have sex, whether or not they are given the proper information on how to do so safely. This, mixed with no formal sex ed, resulted in no less than four unplanned pregnancies in my graduating class of 100 students, so I guess “no sex till marriage” lecturing wasn’t as effective as they’d hoped.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, “increasingly, teachers limit their lessons to ‘safe’ topics such as anatomy and abstinence. In addition, some say, sex is often linked with illegal drugs, disease and death.” Essentially, “’the message many students are getting,’ says former sexuality education Diane Burger (Pennsylvania), “is that sex is bad for your body and dangerous.”

In an increasingly comprehensive and progressive society – one which depends on sex to survive, I might add – it’s moronic to think that people are simply going to avoid having sex until marriage. I’m not encouraging preteens to run around and hump like rabbits; arming them with the necessary information to make the decision for themselves when the time comes is not encouraging them to have sex any more than talking about the dangers of drugs will make them drug addicts.

Sex is the reason we are all alive and standing here today; the fact that it has been stigmatized and culturally tabooed to the point where schools won’t even acknowledge it does way more harm than simply informing adolescents and teens of the risks and protective measures they can take.

Sex happens. Odds are we all have done it, are doing it, or will do it in the future. The sooner we remove the social stigma surrounding it, the sooner we can ensure that future generations will know how to do it safely… or at least be able to comprehend their own genitalia.