You enter your first years as a teenager. People are starting to look and feel different, but no one knows what is really going on. Your parents bring it up a few times, but you make an excuse to escape the conversation. It is time to talk about the big, bad and scary S-E-X. In a room where hormones are raging, pubescent boys are cracking sex jokes, and uncomfortable girls cringe at every mention of a (God forbid) penis, sex education makes for a rollercoaster ride of awkward. Most students want to avoid it at all costs. For the most part, America has decided to take this route as well, avoiding setting sex education into law. On Planned Parenthood’s website, I read about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s data on sex education in American schools.
In the majority of states, less than half of high schools and just one in five middle schools teach all the fundamental sex education topics suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is despite the fact that 90% of parents support sex education in high school and middle school. Basically, in light of the publicized and legitimized fact that sex education is highly recommended and preferred by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American parents, America has done an overwhelming nothing. So how does this really affect American teenagers?
You would be surprised how much a teenager would believe. In my public middle school outside of Philadelphia, a rumor went around about “blue waffle,” a sexually transmitted infection that caused a male and female’s genitalia to turn bright blue. Although this is so obviously fictional and highly laughable, my 13-year-old self was terrified by the fact that it existed. The lack of sex education in schools across America leaves a lot of legitimate sexual information left unsaid and teens with sexual questions silenced. This directly leads to young teenagers having to make their own interpretations of false rumors, which leads to false information and ignorance about sex and so on (ie: that your genitalia turns a painful blue from intercourse). This toxic cycle has some serious repercussions in America that have already become apparent.
A good friend of mine cried to me for two weeks straight about how she thought she was pregnant. I questioned her about how she could be pregnant, as I knew she was a virgin. She replied to me by telling me a story about how she hooked up with a guy in a hot tub and since “sperm can swim faster in hot water,” she was impregnated without having sex. I looked at her, shocked, as tears streamed down her worried face, in complete disbelief that she fully believed she was a pregnant virgin. This is sad, hilarious, horrifying, and so much more. But, it is mostly a testament to the fact that sex education in high schools is necessary in preventing ridiculously false rumors so no one is ignorant to the facts of safe sex…and no one thinks they are the next Virgin Mary.
Unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases are the more serious consequences of the lack of sex education in American schools. Right here in Louisiana, where sex education is not mandated, teen pregnancy and STD rates are higher than in most other states. The Public Library of Science has shown that legitimate and thorough sex education leads to safer and healthier choices. Yup, it really is that simple. We cannot be substituting a formal education on how to take care of your sexual health with “the talk” you may or may not have with your parents.
At Tulane, sex is everywhere. Whether that be the girl grinding on the guy next to you at that frat party on Saturday or the guy you saw walking back to his dorm with all of his Mardi Gras beads still around his neck, sex plays a big role in college. It may be true that young adults in college are more sexually interested and active than the rest of America, but this adds to the case for fundamental sex education in middle and high schools across America. Before entering college, it is important to have the right tools to have safe sex. College hookup culture is often seen as a negative, messy, and irresponsible thing. However, if we could confidently trust all college students to be rightfully prepared and knowledgable about safe sex, hookup culture might turn into something widely accepted. If it is the job of our secondary schools to prepare us for the next chapter of our lives, sex has got a lot to with the conversation at hand.
America has got a lot of work to do. It’s awkward. It’s uncomfortable. It may turn some faces red and provoke some odd questions. But it keeps the children of America safe and smart, so let’s talk about sex.
COVER PHOTO: The New York Times