Parents, teachers, and policymakers have battled over the idea of having condoms and sexual education in their children’s schools for decades. The disagreement comes with the idea that by educating youth about the science and emotion of reproductive health, it will prompt promiscuity. This could not be farther from the truth. Learning about your body, how it works, the emotions connected to it, and how to respond are crucial parts of maturing into a healthy adult.
Here’s my story:
When I was in elementary school, we barely discussed sex in our sexual education course. Our male science teacher and female school nurse prepared a slideshow of images that included the woman’s reproductive system and male reproductive system. In 45 minutes or less, they covered the entire sexual education course for the entire grade. No mentions of emotions, actual sex, or relationships were ever discussed. Just how a woman ovulated and how a man produced sperm. That was the one and only lesson I had in sexual education.
As soon as the kids left the class, we all giggled and talked about how stupid it was. We knew (or thought we knew) what sex was and frankly, some of the kids already had experience. Our school was pretty big, but because of siblings and transfer students, crowds were mixed in age. My friends’ older siblings would hang by us and talk about their experiences, we’d eavesdrop, then talk about what we heard with other students. Looking back, almost all of what we heard was false. For a while, I believed that peeing after sex was a proper form of birth control before even entering high school.
Once high school arrived, it was worse. Hormones were raging, I was already sexually active and attending a Catholic high school. Sexual education was not available nor were condoms or support on the matter. I had a boyfriend I felt very much in love with. So, I decided to talk to my doctor and get on birth control. Long story short, because of my lack of support, complete understanding of how birth control worked, and the inability to miss school (without parents finding out) to get emergency contraceptive, I became pregnant a month after my 16th birthday. I blamed myself for being stupid, irresponsible, and naive. In fact, most people told me I was stupid, irresponsible, and naive. In retrospect, I realize it was not entirely my fault.
Now that I work and interact with young girls, and am currently raising a young girl, I see the grave importance of allowing both young girls and boys to receive comprehensive education about sex and the emotions and changes that come with it. As parents and adults, it’s our duty to ensure our kids are educated about life and prepared for the next challenges. If we miss the opportunity to educate them on sex and relationships, are we genuinely preparing them to be responsible young adults? More importantly, do we send young girls the same message we send young boys?