I can sum up the sex ed that I received in all my years of schooling in four words – brief, and abstinence-only. The idea of having sex safely (and more importantly, how to) was thrown to the wayside by insistences; it would lead to STD’s, pregnancy, and teen parenthood. All this was covered in a three-week unit in sixth grade that my teacher was gone for half of. At the end of the unit, we all signed pledges to abstinence until marriage, and there had been absolutely no mention of the other taboo A-word. I didn’t even go to a private or religious school; I went to a public, secular school district.
At the time I didn’t think much of it – sitting in a classroom learning about sex with a bunch of twelve-year-old boys isn’t the most conducive to education. As I’ve gotten older though, I’ve realized how dangerous this lack of information is. If you ask a group of college students which STD’s are transmitted via blood versus via saliva, you’ll probably get some conflicting and/or unsure answers. Ask them how many of them have gotten tested recently and you’ll probably see some uncomfortable feet-shuffling. We were never taught how to clearly communicate about any of this, and the idea of asking your partner if they’ve been tested is an awkward one instead of routine.
To their credit, my school did go over the various forms of contraception, but what was more stressed upon us was the statistic of failure for each type, not necessarily how they worked. The way this unit went was, “This is a condom. You can use it to try to prevent pregnancy by the man wearing one. There any many different types of condoms. However, condoms can break, rip, slip, etc. It’s better just to not have sex before marriage.” Everything I learned about birth control, I learned from the Internet (shout out to Planned Parenthood).
(Me thanking God that something like the Internet and Planned Parenthood existed to save me from my woeful ignorance).
Thankfully in college, there are a lot of available resources and open conversation about things like that. The discussion isn’t as limited to heteronormative sex and sexual health, which was a big problem noted by some of my LGBTQ friends, and asking for information about anything doesn’t incur the fear of being shamed. That’s why I’m attaching links below for anyone, high school or college, who may have any questions and needs help finding answers.
Planned Parenthood (official site) – https://www.plannedparenthood.org/
How to Prevent and Treat STI’s – https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/How-to-Prevent-Sexually-Transmitted-Infections-STIs?IsMobileSet=false
Contraceptive Methods – https://www.bedsider.org/methods
Sex In The Dark Talks ( BU link, but possible to search for ones on other campuses) – https://www.bu.edu/shs/wellness/general-health-programs/sex-in-the-dark/