The current issue of The Women’s Health Activist features a Young Feminists’ column by Samantha Greenberg calling for national comprehensive sexuality education. The Young Feminists’ column is a regular feature in the NWHN newsletter, spotlighting the voice of a young woman writing about women’s health from her own life experience. Check out an excerpt from Greenberg’s column below, or read the whole thing on the NWHN website.
Let’s Talk About Sex (Education)
When I was little, my mother taught me about sex with the help of Per Holm Knudsen’s book The True Story of How Babies are Made. I remember laughing at the book’s goofy cartoon illustrations while attempting to grasp its explanations of sexual intercourse and conception. As my mother and I read, she told me a man and a woman must get married before becoming sexually intimate, and to do otherwise was a sin against God.
Throughout my life, my mother emphasized the psychological and spiritual consequences of premarital sex, but never discussed sexually transmitted infections (STI), pregnancy, or contraception. As a young adult in a stable relationship, sex seemed like a natural step after dating six months. Growing up with a parent who emphasized abstinence from sex until marriage created a problem for me, though: I understood the physical act of sex — I didn’t know the first thing about practicing safe sex or using birth control. My conservative school district’s sexuality education classes were inadequate, my friends were not helpful, and I wasn’t comfortable asking my parents for guidance.
My saving grace was the county health department, which offered students free gynecological exams and birth control. I found out about this through a friend whose mother worked there, and I walked out of my appointment with a supply of birth control pills and condoms. I credit that appointment for instilling in me a lifetime of safe sexual habits.
Currently, no Federal law mandates sexuality education to be taught in schools, and decisions about the content of school curricula are largely up to the states. This leaves a significant gap in adolescents’ sexual knowledge. Schools are often the only reliable source of information for kids who can’t talk to their parents about sex. Comprehensive sexuality education is associated with lower rates of teen pregnancy, and higher rates of contraceptive use, than abstinence-only-until-marriage education. Students who receive comprehensive sexuality education contract STIs half as often as students who receive abstinence-only education.
We should advocate for a Federal law requiring comprehensive sexuality to be taught in all schools. The Obama Administration and a majority of Americans support including information on safe sexual practices in the sex education curriculum. We just need to make it happen!
Click here to read the full article where Greenberg shares more about her education, research findings on sexuality education’s benefits, and public support for this approach.
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