PORTSIDE

Let’s Talk About Sex

Taylor Arbour

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At a certain point in my life, my mother sat me down and told me when I wanted to have a sexual relationship with someone I needed to feel mature enough to talk to her about it and until I could do that I would not be emotionally ready to have that type of relationship with someone–which is exactly what I plan to do.

Sex is too often spoken about as something to be ashamed of and is a taboo subject in society, especially schools. Curriculum that focuses solely on abstinence and presents it as the only way to engage in a healthy sexual relationship is damaging to the students they’re browbeating into this concept of virginity until marriage.

My mother being a health teacher gave me a much better understanding of sex than my peers during my formative years; I was the person who was asked the questions my friends deemed too awkward to ask their parents and would explain things to the effect of how women get pregnant, how periods work, and where to get things like birth control and other forms of contraception.  

I was amazed by how little the people around me knew about their own bodies; however, this isn’t just a problem in my area. A report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals less than 50% of high schools in the United States are teaching lessons containing all 16 of the sexual health education recommended topics. Director of the CDC’s adolescent and school health division said “Young people who have multiple sex partners, don’t use condoms and use drugs or alcohol before sex are at higher risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. School-based sex education is a critical opportunity to provide the skills and information they need to protect themselves” (Firger).

A survey conducted at Bay Port showed 64% of student felt they had been taught an abstinence only. Not to say this is the sole fault of the teachers, Mr. Eiler says, “I think the biggest challenge in teaching health to high school students is what topics can we talk to students about. We are really hamstrung by parents and the community about what we can talk to you about. There are a lot of topics that are needed to be talked about but there is considerable amount of concern on our part that someone would try to get us fired, go to the school board, or lynched on social media. I have been accused of teaching things via rumor and grateful that parents that heard about it went to me first before going another route.”

To make matters worse, there are students at Bay Port that haven’t even received a sex education. A loophole allows students who went to St. John the Baptist and transferred to Bay Port for high school to opt out of the required health class because they are believed to have already taken one.

“We didn’t even go over sex ed because our teacher was uncomfortable teaching it,” said Natalia Draghicchio, “a lot of it was geared toward abstinence too because we went to a catholic school.”

If we aren’t learning how to have safe sex from our health classes that mainly focus on abstinence, where are we learning how? Most parents don’t want to think about their child having sex so they’re not likely to be any real help and older siblings are hit or miss. Is the next best option the internet? Yahoo Answers is the first site that pops up for numerous questions regarding sex and the thought of teenagers taking advice from Yahoo Answers is terrifying. The simple fact is, American schools need to improve their health programs.

The frustrating part of this whole situation is there is already a comprehensive sex education program that has been adopted by 17 states to improve the quality of sexual education. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, notably the highest ranking health officer in the nation, endorses this as a way to reduce teen pregnancy and the spread of STDs. Comprehensive sex education begins when students are in kindergarten and follows them into high school. It covers reproductive biology, the psychology involved with relationships, sociology with regards to family, and the sexology of masturbation. The main goal is not only to reduce the risks associated with health but also to improve self esteem, prevent abuse, and advocate for the respect of all types of families.

Times have changed and as a nation we are using the ideologies taught to our parents and quite possibly our grandparents. We’ve progressed and it is our responsibility to adapt to the changes in society and accept that abstinence, while extremely effective in preventing unwanted pregnancy, is not the best method of education.

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