Happy Hump Day, you sexy badgers!
Whenever the topic of sex comes up, I forget about something extremely important—the concept of privilege. As a writer for this sexy column, I have the opportunity to write about any topic related to sexuality to the best of my knowledge and at my own discretion. All of you have the opportunity to read this column, as well as access the information and resources that we provide through them. What many of us don’t realize is that it is a privilege to be able to talk about—and learn about—sex-related topics so freely.
For some, going to college is the first chance they have to discuss sex this freely, thanks to the wonderful avenues a campus like ours provides. These avenues include sex-positive student organizations like Sex Out Loud, courses on human sexuality and reproductive health and various sex seminars offered throughout the year. The reason many students are not receiving this sex education until college is largely due to the increasing implementation of abstinence-only sex education programs across the nation.
The Society for Adolescent Medicine recently said that abstinence-only programs threaten fundamental human rights to health, information and life not only because of their ineffectiveness to delay the first age of sexual intercourse, decrease levels of unplanned pregnancies and decrease levels of sexually transmitted infections. They also create danger in not addressing topics essential for a healthy and satisfying sexual life. The National Sexual Education Standards provide an outline of topics that every sex education curriculum should include, which are anatomy and physiology; puberty, identity, pregnancy and reproduction; STIs and HIV; healthy relationships; and personal safety. Abstinence-only sex education programs ignore these standards and place an emphasis on abstinence as the only option for non-married individuals. In fact, Advocates for Youth report that more than 80 percent of curricula supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services contains false, misleading or distorted information about sexual and reproductive health.
Advocates for Youth also reports that approximately 70 percent of females and 62 percent of males have had vaginal sex by the time they turn 18. With an increasing prevalence of this false and distorted curriculum—as well as an absence of accurate information regarding contraception use—it’s no wonder that, according to Planned Parenthood, one in two young people under the age of 25 will get an STI and approximately half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are defined as unintended. We should be well beyond horrific statistics such as these considering we live in an industrialized and economically prosperous nation such as the United States.
Another awful component of most sex education programs, including comprehensive programs, is their heteronormative curriculum. Most sex ed programs are taught with a heterosexual lens and leave out important information in regards to sexual/gender identity, sexual orientation and healthy relationships of all forms. So while some of our peers get informative and comprehensive curriculum, those who don’t identify as heterosexual cannot relate to this information. They are left to the “information” provided by the media or help from other sexual education resources—if they’re able to access them.
You’re probably wondering by now how any of this has an effect on you. Well, a majority of you will eventually become sexually active, if you’re not sexually active already. As human beings, access to accurate and comprehensive sexual/reproductive information should be a right to all, not a privilege. Everyone, including those in a marriage context, should have the right to a sex life free of the fear of getting an STI or having an unintended pregnancy.
It’s also important to be able to talk freely about all issues related to sex and reproduction. Only when this happens will teens and young adults be able to ask their parents about topics like condoms and vaginas. Can you imagine being able to talk openly and comfortably about anything in your sex life—from the amazing orgasm you experienced the night before to which type of birth control you want to go on—without fear of stigma or embarrassment? Contraception use would increase, which would in turn lower rates of unintended pregnancies and STIs.
This does affect you, and it is up to you to produce change. Not only should you learn to talk freely and comfortably about sex-related issues among your friends and family, you should encourage others to do the same. Youth who are still in school and enduring inaccurate and unhelpful curriculum do not have as much power as you do. You have the opportunities to take part in sexual health and reproductive politics. Get to know your state’s policies on these matters and be an advocate for change.
Happy holidays, and we’ll see you next semester!