Why I think our sex education system could be a whole lot better

In the second grade, when I started asking questions about “private parts” and what exactly made them private, my mother explained it the best she could and got me a book about sex and puberty. She always made it clear that I could talk to her about sex-related things because she didn’t want me learning from my peers who, let’s face it, had no clue what they were talking about. It’s only in talking to friends in recent years that I’ve come to realize that my mother was more open with me about sex than many other parents are with their children. This, however, isn’t the only factor that put me ahead on the subject of reproductive health.

The National Conference of State Legislature says only 24 of our 50 states even require sex education to be taught, and of those states, only 20 require the class to be factual or medically accurate. That’s right, there are states that require sex ed, yet don’t mind the teachers lying about it.

The state I grew up in, New York, does require a medically accurate health class be taught, but it became clear early on that even that wasn’t enough. The health class instructor at my school had left by my sophomore year, and they didn’t exactly try to replace her. We had interim teachers who didn’t know enough about the subject to teach it well. Even if my peers hadn’t already started having sex yet, the class probably wouldn’t have been too helpful. They never dispelled the common sex-related myths, nor did they make the students feel comfortable enough to ask about them. “Can you get pregnant from sex in a hot tub?” and “Isn’t two condoms better than one?” aren’t exactly the kind of things people want to ask authority figures.

Some of my closest friends believed in the pull-out method with all their hearts, and didn’t realize several STI’s can be cured. It’s hard for me to imagine what the kids from towns with no sex education program, or with abstinence-only education must go through. In fact, it seems like every time I go online I see somebody, usually a full-grown adult, saying something way off base about reproductive health.

Abstinence only education is done with good intentions. It’s true that abstinence is the safest option, but forbidding teenagers from an activity usually makes that activity all the more appealing. Leading those students to believe that contraceptives are so ineffective that they aren’t even worth using is the icing on the cake, and people end up either with STI’s or pregnancies that likely could’ve been avoided.

Coach Carr’s sex education in Mean Girls might be an exaggeration of reality, but in some classrooms it isn’t far off. We need better sex education in our classrooms so that kids can make informed decisions about their health and their sex lives. While I feel lucky that my mom stepped in where the classroom wouldn’t, it’s just the reality that not everyone has the same home life that I did — school should be a safe haven for students to ask the questions they need to ask, and to grow into the people they want to be. Sex is a huge part of that, and the sex education system must evolve to reflect our needs.

When Miranda Denis isn’t writing about fashion, culture, and the many issues she cares (perhaps too much) about, she’s making playlists, cooking up a delicious vegetarian dish, or taking photos. Check her out on Instagram and Twitter

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