The Sex Files #9: How We Learn about Sex

Welcome to the Sexual Health blog, run by BCSSH!  Here’s the simple version of who we are: we’re a group of students who think that condoms are important.  For the longer version, see our website!

So we’ve all heard the story of the birds and the bees… My personal favorite was the story of the stork bringing babies down from the sky.  I firmly believed that a gigantic white bird had come swooping down from the bright blue sky holding an over-sized handkerchief in which a baby slept soundly in its beak, and had delivered that baby into my mother’s arms.  I really didn’t give much thought to where babies came from beyond that when I was in second grade.

One afternoon in third grade, my friend came up to me and asked me if I knew what sex was.  My heart raced; my fantasy about the stork and the sky was about to be destroyed.  My friend had found out how dogs reproduce and had made the conclusion that humans did the same thing.  Some education, right?  My understanding about sex was now that any sexual activity was similar to that demonstrated by dogs.
 
My mother attempted to correct my perspective on sex by giving me what I call ‘The Plant Analogy.’  This wasn’t your average birds and bees story.  This story delved into the logistics of fertilization, involving a seed and pollen.  I finally understood:  women self-fertilized by inhaling pollen and then babies just appeared out of nowhere… right?
 

Everyone I had ever spoken to about sex caused me more and more confusion about what sex really was.  Many issues revolving around sex, such as sexuality, sexual orientation, and STI’s, were never addressed in any of these conversations.
 
How did you learn about sex?
 
My friend was given an afternoon retreat’s worth of sex-ed.  She learned that choosing to have sex before marriage was like giving your future husband a crappy cardboard box that had once been filled with goodies and wrapped with a bow and nice flowery wrapping paper.  She was told that having sex before marriage made you undesirable.

There are several key assumptions that are made in this small tale:

  1. Sex before marriage is bad.  Period.
  2. When you do get married, because you will, it will be to a male if you are a woman.
  3. If you are a man, your wife will be a gift. 

Abstinence isn’t a bad thing.  In fact it’s the only 100% effective way to prevent pregnancy and the contraction of STI’s.  It’s the ‘only’ in abstinence-only education that becomes a problem, because abstinence isn’t the only option.  Abstinence-until-marriage-only implies that everyone has the same sexual experiences, orientation, wants, and will make the same decisions.  The reality, of course, is that everyone is different in terms of his or her sexuality; a lot of people do have sex before marriage.  According to government studies, abstinence-only education programs are ineffective in delaying the age for sexual activity to begin.

And just because someone chooses to have sex isn’t a reason not to inform him or her about safe practices.  Promoting abstinence as the only option in terms of preventing STI’s and pregnancy does not provide proper education about having safe sex.  These types of programs also fail to address issues of sexuality, sexual orientation, sexually transmitted diseases, and contraceptive methods.  A report released by the U.S. House of Representative’s Committee on Government Reform in 2004 stated that 80% of the federally-funded, abstinence-only education programs used distorted information about contraceptives, the risk of abortion, religion and science, and treated stereotypes about girls and boys as scientific fact.  

Here at BCSSH, as self-dubbed safe sex gurus, we think that the information to make healthy and informed decisions about sex is a very important component that is currently missing from the available sex education programs across the nation, and you should too.  According to statistics, 1 in 4 youth will have an STI during their 4 years in college.  Comprehensive sex education does not promote sex before marriage or demote abstinence as the most effective way of avoiding pregnancy and STI’s.  It merely informs the youth on a wide spectrum of sexually-related topics, including but not limited to:  sexuality, gender identity, sexual orientation, conversations about sex with family, abstinence and methods of contraception, and STI’s and their prevention.  These types of programs have been studied and the results show that they do in fact delay sexual initiation.

Stories about the birds and the bees and storks are great for telling young children when they are deemed too young to know about sex.  But now that we’re all grown up, we really do need to be educated.  I watched TV, talked to friends, and read things on the internet to find out about sex.  And although these are resources, they aren’t always the most accurate and comprehensive.
 
We all eventually end up understanding how sex happens, but that doesn’t mean we automatically know the best practices to stay safe and sustain healthy sexual relationships with others.  And this is why I urge you to sign the petition to Senator Scott Brown and fight for proper sex education.  No more birds and bees, please.
 
Peace, love, and lube,
BCSSH

BC Students for Sexual Health is partnering with the College Democrats of BC in effort to convince Senator Scott Brown to support the Repealing Ineffective and Incomplete Abstinence Only Programming Funding Act that would repeal government funding (a.k.a. your tax dollars) for abstinence-only education programs.  We are also asking him to support the REAL act which would move government funding to comprehensive sex education programs that work.  We are asking you to support the cause for a more educational and accurate sexual education system.  Please sign the petition to show your support.  To see the full letter to Senator Brown visit our Facebook page. 

Photo Sources:
http://stevensheppard.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/stork-and-baby.jpg
http://www.pirate4x4.com/forum/showthread.php?p=11219400
http://www.hotindienews.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/sex_education.jpg