Lessons to UN-Learn From High School Sex Ed
Amidst the memories of high school, most of us probably recall a few horror stories, or at the very least, some unpleasant times. We’ve tolerated teachers we hated, suffered through classes that could never appeal to our interest, and had information shoved down our throat that only left us wondering, “how is this useful?” Regardless of usefulness, at least it was factual; it was knowledge.
For most subjects, like math and science, teachers are required to be accurate and have standards to abide by. Sounds kind of obvious, right? So why is it that, when it’s comes to sexual education, the same standards don’t apply? As of right now, only 13 states require that all sexual education teachings be medically accurate. This means that there are some states in which the teachers can give you false information, and it’s just okay; no penalties, no nothing.
Because of this asinine regulation (or lack thereof), many teens are either being taught very wrong information, or aren’t getting any information at all. Frankly, this just won’t do. Here are a few actual lessons from high school sex ed that definitely need to be UN-learned.
Abstinence-Only Sex Education Programs:
In my personal opinion, everything about these types of programs is ridiculous. Sure, you wouldn’t necessarily go around and tell teenagers it’s okay to galavant around town, having intercourse all over the place; there are studies that show most teenagers simply aren’t mature enough to make safe and smart decisions about sex (hence, sex education). So, abstinence should be covered, but it can’t be forced, and therefore shouldn’t be the only lesson on the sex ed syllabus. The problem with these programs is, they leave out all of the pertinent information about contraception and sexual health. If there is any mention of it, it is usually skewed to make it seem like contraception is not as effective as it really is; often times, it may completely blur the lines of science and religion to scare kids (and any unmarried adult for that matter) out of having premarital sex. When teachers make sex seem horrible and dangerous, kids tend tune it out and have sex anyway, only now they have none of the facts they need to make these explorations safe and comfortable.
Let’s Take A Closer Look…
- Pam Stenzel is a woman who travels around the United States, teaching abstinence-only sex “education.” She has been criticized for “slut-shaming” during her assemblies, telling students, “If you have sex outside of one permanent, monogamous relationship… you will pay.” Not only does she make young women feel bad if they’ve already engaged in sexual intercourse, but she also gives out false statistics on birth control and contraception. In a filmed lecture, she tells the teenage audience that girls who take birth control are 10 times more likely to contract an STD—a statement that is completely lacking in actual evidentiary support. This is a perfect example of one of the many scare tactics used to keep kids from having sex.
- A 2004 report by the Government Reform Committee reviewed 13 of the most used lesson plans for abstinence-only programs, and it found that there were many errors. Students were actually told that HIV is transmissible through sweat and tears and that sex outside marriage will be severely physically and emotionally damaging, in addition to a number of harmful gender stereotypes.
Okay, so no school is upfront about slut-shaming and most will say that “they don’t do this.” However, there are many common practices and activities that sex education curriculums use to show how having multiple partners makes a person “dirty.” Not only that, but most of these “activities” are clearly directed at the female students, making those who have already engaged in sexual activity feel insecure about themselves. Sounds a lot like slut-shaming to me!
Let’s Take a Closer Look…
- A lot of curriculums use candy, such as jolly ranchers and hershey’s kisses, to show that the more something gets “used up,” the less others will want it. These metaphors start out with one person having a piece of candy. They can do whatever they want to it, besides eat it. This means touching, licking, smushing, anything. Then, they pass it to the next person and this continues on until one person is too grossed out to even touch the piece of candy. Then the teacher usually says something along the lines of, “this is what it’s like when you have sex with multiple people; eventually no one will want you.”
- A 2012 study by the New York Civil Liberties Union showed that one New York school district’s sex ed curriculum referred to the vagina as a “sperm deposit,” and that an average of two-in-three districts in New York didn’t even show a diagram of the female anatomy. It’s almost as if these districts are saying that, when it comes to sex, women are just there to receive the men’s sperm. This is not a message that teens should be learning, whether it’s directly or metaphorically stated.
Negative Information about Sexuality:
The topic of sexuality is often overlooked and left out of sex education programs. We are taught (hopefully) the scientific aspects of sex, ranging from reproduction to sexually transmitted diseases and contraceptives, we are taught what happens when our bodies hit puberty, and so on and so forth. Yet it seems that we are rarely taught anything about discovering our sexuality or how we choose to identify ourselves. There is a huge lack of information on being anything but straight, and in this day and age, there should be more than nine states that have positive information on LGBT relationships.
Let’s Take A Closer Look…
- Only 12 states require sexual orientation to be a part of sex education. Out of those 12, three of them mandate that all information about same-sex relationships taught in the course must be negative. So if it’s going to be mentioned, it cannot include any positive information. This means that LGBT students are required to listen to their teachers tell them all about their “detrimental” and “unsafe” lifestyle. This is completely unfair and could be mentally scarring for these individuals. Not only is it cruel to make someone go through that kind of humiliation, but it also reinforces the wrong ideas about the LGBT community. It will only play a hand in continuing a wave of ignorance that a lot of people around the world have been trying to end. Plus, it stops teens who are LGBT from getting the proper information they need to understand and live healthy, sexual lives.
To Sum it All Up:
Not all sex education programs are filled with misinformation, crazy made-up statistics, and weirdly out-dated candy examples. There are teachers and districts out there that are trying to give teenagers the real facts on sex, how to prevent diseases, and contraception. Unfortunately, there are far too many high school classrooms, school districts, and curriculums that need revision. Too many of us grow up with false information or no information at all on a subject that, as an adult, becomes very important.
Sex Education needs to be held to the same standards as every other subject to ensure that the youth of tomorrow don’t end up with the misconceptions of today. So, if any of these lessons bring back vivid memories from your high school sex ed class, it may be time for a refresher course. After all, it’s never too late to continue your sexual education!