Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
freestocks r oV6smBBYk unsplash?width=719&height=464&fit=crop&auto=webp
freestocks r oV6smBBYk unsplash?width=398&height=256&fit=crop&auto=webp
/ Unsplash
Wellness > Sex + Relationships

How Abstinence-Only Sex Ed Failed Me

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at BU chapter.

By: Sarah Kathleen Lupu

The extent of my sex education was this: “Don’t have sex before marriage.  Don’t do anything remotely sexual before marriage.  Don’t even think about sex before marriage. Otherwise, there would be… consequences.” 

The first problem with this kind of sex education is that I learned nothing about protection. It just so happens that my friends and I were not having sex in high school, but what if one of us rebelled and did?  We would have had no idea how to be safe.  Even if someone strongly believes in waiting for marriage, it makes more sense for them to teach their children about protection. If a person without a driver’s license goes out and drives, no matter how reckless you consider this person to be, wouldn’t you rather they had airbags?

Worse, I learned nothing about consent.  The closest my school came to ever covering the topic was in my sixth-grade health class.  There was a section in my textbook about sexual harassment and abuse, but the teacher told us we would skip that section because “that doesn’t happen at our school.”  

Needless to say, my lack of education would have consequences.

When I arrived at college, I had every intention of waiting for marriage.  I considered myself a bit of a rebel because I was willing to kiss a boy before I was married (which in all seriousness, was a controversial decision where I came from).  About a month into college, I met my first boyfriend.  He told me he had the same views about abstinence that I did, so I felt safe dating him.

It all started with kissing. I was comfortable and even excited about this step in the relationship.  Then he pulled me on top of him and started kissing me.  My mom had taught me that this kind of kissing lead to sex, and I didn’t want sex.  I wanted it to stop, but I didn’t know how to voice my boundaries. I had learned I was supposed to say no to sex, but not how to say no to sex.  

Soon enough, he started pushing my physical boundaries further. I didn’t know what was going on at this point because I’d never been educated about the sex acts he was forcing on me.  All I knew was that while it felt good, it must somehow be wrong, and I didn’t want to do anything wrong.  I did try saying no sometimes, but this answer was never welcomed.  He had all the power in our relationship, and he would lie to me and manipulate me until he got what he wanted.

Eventually, he got tired of me and left, but that’s another story for another time.  The point is, this relationship was not consensual. I didn’t know that because I didn’t know what consent, or lack thereof, really looked like.  I knew something terribly, terribly wrong had happened, but I didn’t know who to reach out to, or even the words to use if I did know.  It took hours of counsel from professionals, family, and friends to understand my experience. 

I’m not saying abstinence-only education was the reason why I was subject to sexual misconduct––the only reason for that was my ex-boyfriend. I’m not saying the people who educated me about sex were bad people.  They were kind, well-meaning, and sincere (albeit, sincerely wrong) people.  I’m not even saying promoting abstinence is a bad thing. If abstinence is your goal, then you go girl!  What I am saying is that kids need to know more about sex than the idea they’re not supposed to have it yet.  

I’ve talked to a lot of college students about sex ed, and most of us received a pretty crappy version of it.  We can’t go back in time and fix the damage that has been done to us.  What we can do is ensure our friends, younger siblings, and future children are more educated than we were.  Let’s be the generation that changes sex education forever.           


Want to keep up with HCBU? Make sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, check out our Pinterest board, and read our latest Tweets!

Writers of the Boston University chapter of Her Campus.