Let's talk about sexual education
There appears to me to be a growing trend among most (if not all) high schools. In junior high, teachers are faced with a hoard of immature students who will giggle at phallic terminology, and squirm uncomfortably when menstruation is mentioned. In light of this, they put forth some effort to teach students very basic anatomy and different kinds of STIs, but in the seventh grade, no one is listening and no one really cares, and the classes taper out. Parents assume the school has done its job, and teachers assume that, when the time is right, someone will sit these students down and actually tell them how everything works.
But oftentimes no one comes along to do that. The curriculum for health education in Alberta requires that schools only need to educate students until the ninth grade. After this point, it seems adults are confident that as long as we know what a condom is, what a period is, and the obvious differences between female and male anatomy, we are ready to tackle the world.
My teachers might then be surprised to find out that the first time I learned that there were contraceptives other than a single type of birth control pill and condoms, was last year when I went for a checkup with my GP and she happened to bring it up. She seemed genuinely surprised that I did not know anything about IUDs or diaphragms, and I felt embarrassed about it too. But looking back on it, not once can I recall anything besides a condom ever taught to me as a legitimate form of birth control.
This may not seem terribly inconvenient. After all, if I wanted more information on contraceptives I would’ve had to go to my GP anyway. But the problem runs deeper. For example, the first time I heard about Plan B, was when I stumbled upon a comedy routine by Amy Schumer. She kept mentioning the ‘morning after pill’, the audience kept laughing, and I realized I didn’t actually know anything about it. My problem lies with the people who have never stumbled across the topic and don’t know what to do if the condom breaks or those who don’t know the consequences of overuse.
I am majoring in a field of biology, and have taken multiple human physiology courses; I should not be accidentally discovering what part of the female body the hymen is. I should also not be learning about how it does not contribute to proving a woman’s sexual history, because I stumbled across a Facebook video explaining it. What happens to the young women who don’t go see a doctor if they bleed during sex for the first time, because they think that’s what’s supposed to happen?
I should not have to be the one to sit across from young adults and explain what pre-ejaculation is, and why the ‘pull-out method’ does not work. It should not be considered lucky that my biology teacher felt like mentioning it once during a class in the twelfth grade. What happens to the students whose biology teacher didn’t mention it, or the ones who didn’t take biology in high school?
And yet, for all the faults and flaws of the health program in my high school, it can still hold its own against many underfunded schools across Canada, and especially across the United States. When over half of a first world nation, such as the US, doesn’t require Sex. Ed. be taught, and 37 states allow for the teaching of medically inaccurate information, it’s obvious that unattainable form of modesty is being prioritized over the health of young adults. It’s no use pretending that by not talking about sex, or by preaching abstinence, all teenagers will remain sexually inactive until a socially appropriate time. The failure to accept this is what leads to teenage pregnancy, STIs, misunderstandings about consent, and confusion about gender and sexual identities in youth.
This is not an issue that can be placed on the shoulders of young adults. This is an education system letting down generations of students, and the effects are showing themselves across the nation. When a grown man in a position of legal power chastises a woman for not ‘keeping her knees together’ in a rape trial, that is a consequence of ignorance. When feminine hygiene products are included under a ‘luxury’ tax, that is a consequence of ignorance. When a state governor defunds a Planned Parenthood, leading to an outbreak in HIV cases, that is a consequence of ignorance.
A poison of misinformation has been trickling down and infecting young adults for years, leading to adults who only understand sexual health based on their own personal experiences. Needless to say, this leads to a multitude of problems in the fields of law and politics. It’s time to stop considering health and sex as taboo topics that students shouldn’t hear about until they’re older. No one is swooping in to save the uninformed a couple years down the line, and ignorance will continue to be mostly hidden while it festers, which no one notices, because it’s too modest to take its clothes off.
Edited by: Robyn Welsh, firstname.lastname@example.org