13 Things Abstinence-Only Education Doesn't Teach You

Recently, President Obama cut abstinence-only education funding from the federal budget. If you went to public school in Florida, like I did, you know that abstinence-only education was the only type of sexual health education you received. What’s more, in Florida, sex education is not required by law to be medically accurate. There is a lot of critique out there about abstinence-only education, so here, we’re going to talk about 13 things abstinence-only education doesn’t teach you. Hopefully, these things will be passed on to younger students, but only time will tell.


1. Sex and masturbation can be fun, healthy, and safe all at once



Yep, you read that right. With consent and knowledge of how to practice safe sex, sex can be really healthy!


2. Everyone's preferences are different and that is okay


Some people really like sex, some people don’t want to have sex ever, and some people fall in the middle. If we don’t shame people for their sexual preferences (as long as they aren’t harmful to themselves or anyone else), we learn to express our sexuality in healthy ways.


3. Abstinence is not always the best method of birth control

I know, right? This one threw me off too, but look: the best method of birth control is the one you’ll actually use effectively. If people tell you to remain abstinent, but that isn’t something that works for you there can be consequences; for example, Bristol Palin spent years of her life promoting abstinence, only to get pregnant twice (once while she was 17 and her mother was on the campaign trail, and the second time, while she wasn't in a relationship at all) while she, herself was supposed to be practicing. We aren’t shaming anybody here, but it’s obvious this method of birth control didn’t work for her, or many teens told that abstinence is their only option. If abstinence doesn’t work for you and your partner, but condoms will, go pick up a box and enjoy guilt-free safe sex!


4. How to spot intimate partner abuse

In high school no one really thinks that intimate partner abuse is a thing; unfortunately, it is. It’s not something anyone wants to think about, but it happens, and is a major roadblock to healthy relationships and sexuality. Click here for more information on how to spot intimate partner abuse. Speak with a teacher, counselor, or other trusted adult about a situation you feel is sketchy.


5. That there shouldn't be a stigma around STIs

People don’t treat you like you’re a bad or seedy person because you get the flu, so why should it be different with STIs? No one should feel like a bad person because they were misinformed by a partner, or made a mistake. No one wants an STI, and no one should be treated like less of a person for contracting one.


6. How to prevent and treat STIs

That said, we need to teach young people that there’s no reason not to get tested. Many health clinics have free gonorrhea and chlamydia testing dates, so grab your partner and get tested. The best way to prevent an STI is to have an honest conversation with your partner before having sex, and getting tested with each new partner. If you find you have an STI or symptoms (but remember that many STIs have no symptoms, so GET TESTED), reach out to your partner, or anyone that you may have given this STI to before finding out about it. Most STIs can be cured with simple antibiotics, but make sure you’re practicing safe sex to avoid  getting them in the first place.


7. What to do if you've been sexually assaulted

If you’re a USF student and a victim of sexual assault, reach out to the Center for Victim Advocacy and Violence Prevention. The information is 100% confidential, and you will not be pressured to report anything to law enforcement that you don’t feel comfortable with. If you aren’t a student, contact the Crisis Text Line for help. Remember, being a victim of sexual assault doesn’t mean that you’re dirty, tainted, or did anything to deserve it.


8. That everyone's orgasm matters

Our culture revolves around guys having an orgasm during sex, and then it’s over. Ladies, your orgasm matters too! Teach your partner what works best for you, and if you don’t know, have a little DIY fun to figure it out. If you want an orgasm, there’s no reason you should let your partner finish without you. Why let all the fun be about someone else?


9. The medically accurate words for genitals

Is the hot dog in a bun really the best way to talk about your genitals? Learning exactly what all the different parts are called and how they work is extremely important, not only so you’ll pass the anatomy quiz, but so you know your own body! It is also important to teach children the anatomical names for their genitals: this enables them, in the event of sexual molestation (which is hopefully never), to be able to explain accurately to parents or authorities exactly what has happened.


10. How to ask for and give consent

In order to have healthy, fun, safe sex-- you need to get consent. Unless the person you want to have sex with is saying “Yes,” you don’t get to have sex with them. If they’re drunk, by law, they can’t give consent. Seriously, if your boyfriend/girlfriend/random hookup is drunk, you need to put on your clothes, take them home, tuck them into bed, and leave them there. Even if they’re drunk and saying “Yes,” you get to be the responsible party. They will thank you later.


11. Proper sexual hygiene

Rule #1: Don’t douche. Rule #2: Do clean, especially after sex. Don’t attempt to clean the inside of anything. Check out this video from Laci Green.


12. How birth control actually works

Bedsider is the best place on the internet to learn the different types of birth control, how they work, pros and cons, and if it will work for your situation. Understanding how not to get pregnant will help you in your quest to do just that. Abstinence is included here, but just like every other form of contraception, Bedsider talks about the pros and cons, unlike abstinence-only education, which asserts that abstinence is the only way to be.


13. Sex doesn't always look like it does in porn (and that's okay)

Many teens get information about sex from porn, which is not always a good thing. Porn promotes very specific types of bodies, and is created with appearance in mind. Porn stars are rarely enjoying themselves on screen, which is the opposite of what sex should be! Remember, if you watch porn, what you’re seeing on the screen is seldom what equates to actual pleasure. Maybe trying that new position you saw in porn is probably a bad idea. Stick to what feels good for everyone.