U.S. sex ed erases thrills, pencils in shame
What did you learn about sex before you came to college? Probably almost everything you currently know about sex. How much of that came from your formal sex education in school? Probably almost nothing.
Sex education as it is today is failing our entire generation. Disease and teen pregnancy prevention are incredibly important; our current sex education system addresses this, but in order to prepare kids for the adult world, there has to be more focus on teaching sexual responsibility.
Just because it’s too late for us to receive a good sex education doesn’t mean we can’t ensure future generations will.
High school sex education goes one of two ways: Either students learn how to put a condom on a banana or they learn God doesn’t want anyone touching bananas until marriage. But even when we do get to learn how to use condoms, there’s seldom a conversation about how you should handle that uncertain time pre sex. For example, how do you ask your partner about protection without killing the moment? How do you talk about what kind of sex you want? What does enthusiastic consent realistically look/sound like and why is it necessary?
No one teaches us how to talk to one another about sex, which leads to young people getting into scary situations they don’t want to be in.
In the UA’s Oasis Program Against Sexual Assault & Relationship Violence Annual Report for 2012-2013, a survey found 8.5 percent of undergrads had been sexually assaulted and 2.3 percent had been raped.
That’s at least 3,500 students who survived an event they never should have faced in the first place, and the number is probably higher, considering most sexual assaults are never reported. It’s entirely unacceptable that this happened to our students, and in some cases on our own campus.
The importance of consent and the ability to give it in any sexual situation needs to be taught to every single student before we get to college. Out here, we’re on our own.
But few populations feel as isolated as the queer community.
Queer kids get screwed over more than most people in sex ed (big surprise.) In Arizona, state law demands that sex education must be “medically accurate and comprehensive” but “cannot promote homosexuality or portray homosexuality as a positive lifestyle.” This means men who have sex with men, the group who is at the highest risk for HIV/AIDS, are not receiving education about how to protect themselves and others.
Women who have sex with women are also often left out of most sex ed conversations. For some reason, people seem to think, no dick = no pregnancy = no problem. That’s not exactly how it works.
According to womenshealth.gov, some STIs are more common among lesbians and bisexual women.
Not educating women on how to use things like dental dams and gloves (for protection during manual sex) encourages the dangerous myth, even within the queer women population, that precautions don’t need to be taken during woman-on-woman sex.
Trans* students are erased in similar way, but also have to deal with sitting in a class where “normal” is defined by sex, and sex is assumed to be synonymous with gender. This experience can be alienating and affect self-confidence and body image: The exact opposite of what sex education should be.
The base problem of sex education is that schools teach us about the sex they want us to have: heterosexual and missionary with a condom on and the paralyzing fear of contracting a disease or getting pregnant running through our minds the whole time. Hopefully, it’ll be bad enough that we won’t do it again until marriage.
Start by educating yourself on sex positive and inclusive alternatives to the current standard of sex ed; Pride Alliance and Campus Health hold Queer Sex Ed once a semester that’s open and applicable to all identities.
Then educate others: Talk to friends, family and kids you know about healthy ideas of sexuality, safety and consent.
My little brother is probably the most socially awkward high school freshman in the world. Opening up a dialogue about sexuality has brought us closer together and helped him get the information he secretly wanted, but didn’t know how to ask.
If we want teens to become responsible sexual adults, someone has to teach them. If we start in high school, we can better assure comfort and confidence in having safe sex that’s actually enjoyable. Maybe then we can focus on, I don’t know, studying or something?
Kat Hermanson is a gender and women’s studies freshman. Follow her @queerwildkat.