Sexual education must be faced openly

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Sexual education must be faced openly

Shutterstock / iQoncept

Shutterstock / iQoncept

Shutterstock / iQoncept

Were you taught everything you needed to know about sex, sexuality and relationships in school?

Out of the 23 students I talked to when putting this article together, only three of them told me that the sex education they received in school was useful to them.

“I don’t even remember having sex-ed in high school,” said sophomore Dominic Greenaway. “They told us about men’s and women’s genitalia, but we never really talked about sex. I didn’t feel like I needed sexual education because I had the Internet.”

This reflects a deeply rooted problem with the way America’s youth is taught about sexuality. The Internet is an important resource for many things, but sorting through what is good information and what is bogus can be difficult for adolescents who have not received proper education on the topic.

American media is saturated with messages about sex. Boys learn that, in order to be proper men, they need to get laid. All the while, girls are learning that they need to protect themselves against the evils of sexual intercourse, lest they become sluts.

With all the conflicting information out there, is it not the job of schools to do what they do best and educate their students about how to protect themselves against the potential negatives that sex brings while informing them of the potential positives of sexuality?

Of course it is. The main problem with sexual education in America is the limited scope of information provided to these young adults.

Abstinence-only education and sex education that only focuses on the negative consequences of sex will never be enough to prepare people for the whole range of sexual identities and sexual experiences that exist, let alone prepare people to make decisions about their bodies that they are comfortable with.

And let’s talk about inclusivity for a second.

On Feb. 9, Fox News published an article claiming that students in a California high school were publicly shamed for not accepting the “LGBT agenda” that was being taught to them as part of their education on sexuality.

The students were visited in class by peers from the Queer Straight Alliance and given handouts with LGBT terminology. They were also asked to place themselves on a gender spectrum.

“They told the students one day they could come to school feeling like a boy and the next day they could come to school feeling like a girl,” one parent told Fox.

Some parents, who identified themselves as Christian, claimed that parents should have been notified for permission before the students were taught about these topics.

The problem with asking parents for permission before teaching students about sexual identity is that those students who are not given permission are left woefully under-informed about issues that may very well affect them. Being Christian does not exclude one from being gay, transgender, gender-fluid, bisexual, asexual, etc.

The program taught at that California high school is actually a step in the right direction and is a program which should be more common in American schools.

What happens to these children who grow up in the dark about how to make informed decisions with their sexual encounters?

Withholding information about sex from adolescents is no way to protect them from the potential dangers of sexual activity. In fact, it does quite the opposite. If young adults do not even know how to use birth control, how to protect against STDs or the signs of healthy versus abusive relationships, this opens the door for much bigger problems.

Seven out of my 23 interviewees told me that they wish information about sex had been presented in a more positive light and that there should have been a greater emphasis on consent.

In a society in which girls are sent home from school for showing too much skin, inhibiting their ability to learn, a society in which young men are told they need to be sexually active or else they are flawed and a society in which young queer kids have their identities erased time and time again in hetero-centric media, a little positivity about sexuality is greatly needed.

“Abstinence-only education programs are not effective at delaying the initiation of sexual activity or reducing teen pregnancy,” reports Advocates for Youth, a nonprofit dedicated to helping teenagers make informed decisions about their sexuality.

Let’s face it — sex is never going away. Parents cannot just ignore the issue and hope that their children remain “pure.” This is simply not how it works in the real world. Whether adolescents decide to have sex or not, informed and consensual decisions are paramount.