the importance of sex education
"Has been a lifesaver so many times!"
- Catherine Rampell, student @ University of Washington
"Exactly the help I needed."
- Jennifer Hawes, student @ San Jose State
"The best place for brainstorming ideas."
- Michael Majchrowicz, student @ University of Kentucky
As I was close to tears in College Library trying to cram useless knowledge about proteins that cause legs to grow out of a fly?s head, my mind naturally wandered to sex. I got to thinking: Learning about sex is a fascinating topic, and I would much rather be studying the physiology of boners than the genetic makeup of flies. Considering this seems to be a paper- and exam-heavy week for most everyone, here?s a topic that people should want to learn about: Sex.
I realize if you are reading a sex column, then I am most likely preaching to the choir, but it never ceases to astound me as to how much sexual information circulated is completely incorrect ? for instance, that it is impossible to get pregnant if a person has sex while on their head (that?s false, by the way). But really who can blame them? There aren?t a whole lot of resources out there disseminating correct information, and let?s be honest, most sex education in schools is nowhere near where it should be. If in fact you did have some sort of sex ed in school prior to college, like for most of us, it was probably instructed by the gym teacher or someone who had absolutely no specialized training in sex ed. And that teacher probably was uncomfortable talking about certain topics, saying certain words, and the whole course may have had just a few classes on condoms and HIV. Of course this is a generalization, but the more I facilitate Sex Out Loud programs and talk to friends and family, it appears the level of correct information students are equipped with in terms of safe and healthy sex is workable at best.
How many of us graduated with or knew someone who was pregnant in high school? Probably most of us, and yet one argument against teaching sufficient sex ed in schools is that teens are too immature and not ready for such information. Really? Because I knew people who were having sex in high school, so that argument is completely bogus to me. It was an option to have written permission to opt out of our Contemporary Living class in which information about STIs and pregnancy was taught. My guess is the parents of those students weren?t teaching them giving head can lead to HIV transmission or that receptive condoms are great for anal sex. For those students in a sex ed class, most likely there was a day devoted to STIs. And in that class, enlarged photos of highly progressed and untreated STIs were probably projected on a screen and were shown more or less to scare the shit out of students to prevent them from engaging in any sort of sexual activity.
Even though those images may be burned into our memory, useful information was skimmed over, like the fact that not only are STIs very common (UHS sees about six new cases of HPV ? which can lead to genital warts or cervical cancer ? per week), but also that all are treatable if not curable. And there are multiple ways to prevent the transmission of STIs: barrier methods (sex/dental dams, latex gloves, insertive and receptive condoms), knowing a partner?s sexual history and testing (free for UW students at the Blue Bus clinic at UHS). The truth of the matter is, having a six-foot inflamed vulva with Mr. Johnson pointing at it is not an effective method to teach kids safer sex.
And then we get to college where sex is all around us! Lacking the basic instructions to practice sex safely, it?s no wonder UHS sees three new cases of chlamydia a week. If your sex education classes were crappy or you simply want to learn more, there are some great introductory classes here on our wonderful campus, such as Intro to Human Sexuality (Psych 160), Women?s Bodies Health and Disease (WS 103) and a slew of others. Sex Out Loud, PAVE, Campus Women?s Center, LGBT Campus Center and other student organizations also offer wonderful safer sex resources and information. I recommend checking any of them out to learn more and to pick up free safer sex supplies too.
This may seem like simply a vent of my frustration with the lack of decent sexual health education in schools (albeit true), but I really hope to prove the validity of sex health programming.
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