Sex Education in College

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Sex ed at college? Just when we thought we had escaped the condom-clad bananas and lectures on how STIs will ruin our lives, it's back! Even the thought conjures up that scene from Mean Girls. Sex education for most in America likely included such hilarious (and sometimes terrifying) methods of education. “Don’t have sex or your vagina will be loose”. “Sex is a penis going into a vagina”. “Sex, it will hurt”. “You have to be this size or it won’t feel good”. “Don’t have sex. Just don’t”. “No, we won’t even talk about it”.

We should talk about it. We want to talk about it. And we should do so in a way that gets us real information. Even good sex ed in primary schools really doesn't cover much and sources such as the Guttmacher Institute show that not only are abstinence-based programs completely ineffective but that states have done little to ensure that the information given is even medically accurate or uninfluenced by religion. What's more, the education that is offered is aimed at straight, cisgender people and it is only about one kind of sex.

So, what does this have to with college students? We: the independent (at least somewhat independent), the informed, the connected, the educated. Sex ed is for kids, teenagers. Why would we need sex ed now as adults? We’ve already had sex, or we’ve talked to a doctor, or we’ve Googled it. We know we should use condoms. We know.

But is that all we need to know? Certainly not. We have been given the bare scraping of what there is to know about what sex, our sexuality, our bodies, our resources have to offer us. And frankly, knowing more, even about the uncomfortable things, leaves us better prepared to have good sex and to have a better understanding of our bodies and our wants and needs. We can have the language and ability to form healthy relationships not only with our partners but with our friends, family, and health care providers. And we become less afraid to ask questions. Our sexual education has purposefully limited us on how we approach this part of lives, if and when we choose to approach it.

Talking with my peers throughout my time in college, I have consistently heard “I never knew that” or “I wish I had known that sooner” and “Why didn’t we learn this”. The answer is not always simple and the questions I am asked can be very different. There is a lot to unpack about why we were not given the information we want about sex.  Our experiences are unique and connected. Many of us have the same questions, yet we fear that we are somehow strange for not knowing or wondering.  But now, we are no longer limited by what is provided to us in school. Colleges are now revitalizing sex ed to include not only disease and pregnancy prevention but also pleasure, relationship health, consent, kink, communication, resources, and more. Advocates and educators are now online to provide accurate information and support for every question from “What is a Dental Dam” to “What does Anal Feel Like” to “How do I Find a Good Doctor”. We now have the access to safe resources and experts who want to empower us, not scare or shame.

And we, as peers can do a lot as well. Sex ed doesn’t just come from a professor or a professional health educator. We can do a lot by sharing resources, experiences, and just talking about sex. We can support our friends by showing that we aren’t afraid to talk about pleasure and we can find comfort and validation when we realize that we share a lot of the same questions. Even better, we can gain new knowledge.

So as one college student to another, don’t be afraid to seek out that knowledge and share it. You deserve the power this gives you and it is there for you to find.

 

Some resources and information:

Tips, info, personal stories, and support: http://www.scarleteen.com

Contraceptives and STI information: https://www.bedsider.org

http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/01/having-sex-first-time-tips

Sexplanations: The show with everything you wanted to know about sex: https://youtu.be/pQiadPyjJ4E

Why we need sex education: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/audio/2016/jun/15/lets-ta...

 

About The Author

Jaime McLean, '18, is a Senior at Augustana College. She is majoring in Women and Gender Studies with a minor in Public Health. Jaime has been working with sexual health education for four years and is the Chair of Sexual Health Education for +IMPACT. She has taught sexual health, gender, and sexuality classes formally and informally during her time at Augustana, has co-organized the first class-run Sexual Health Fair on campus (PUBH 380, 2017), and is currently developing a mini sex ed series for students on campus. She is also a trained sexual assault survivor advocate.

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