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Breaking News: Sexual Education Did Not Prepare Me for Sex

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March 26, 2018

Let me introduce myself. I am an upper middle class woman who grew up in a fairly prosperous area. I went to a middle school and high school that are highly ranked in the country. I am currently in the Honors College at a well-ranked public school on the pre-medical track. My friends, for the most part, are progressive and openly talk about sex.

All of these factors, one may think, might make me more prepared for sexual encounters. This may be the case, but I still would not label myself as “prepared”. In fact, I think I was fairly far from it when I started having sex and still do not know as much about sex and sexual health as I would like. I have made many mistakes along the way, and it makes me concerned for the state of sexual education in this country. We already know that it is severely lacking in certain areas, but what is not discussed enough, I think, is the little sexual knowledge across the board among all youth in the US.

I had sex ed classes in late middle school and in health class my freshman year of high school. After that, adults and professionals barely spoke to me about it. I only would hear some snippets of information from my peers who were becoming sexually active, but they were still mostly inexperienced and confused themselves. Enter college, where sexual experiences are at the peak of exploration and discovery. Here’s some of information that I believe is crucial, and had I known, would have saved me some emotional distress:

  • All of my birth control method options along with effectiveness

I definitely did not know much about my various options for birth control methods besides the  pill and condoms coming out of high school. I learned about the IUD and Nuva Ring as a freshman in college and about the Depo shot and the implant when I was a university sophomore shadowing an OB/GYN.

Birth control pills in “perfect use” are 99% effective and 91% effective in “typical use”.  Then, the question is what “perfect use” and “typical use” mean. Here’s an article that explains it. I only discovered all of this after in-depth web searching. Knowing this can really help somebody make the right decision about what contraception(s) to use and not freak out after not taking that day’s birth control pill exactly on time.

  • Fertility periods

I did not know at all that there was one specific time a month that a person ovulates, and therefore is more fertile, until last year as a 20-year-old. That I can remember, they never touched upon this in any of the teenage pregnancy television shows and movies that I have watched. Thanks, The Secret Life of an American Teenager. One day of ovulation mixed with the fact that sperm is only viable in the vagina for 5 days lowers the chance for pregnancy way more than I had previously thought. So, monitoring the date of ovulation, like through an app, can be a sort of birth control method in itself and at the very least give some reassurance.

  • How birth control pills work

I did not really understand how birth control pills worked in terms of preventing pregnancy because I went on them to regulate my period. I thought that I would still ovulate but just in a trackable fashion “on time”. Nope. If the pills are working, it prevents ovulation completely and thickens the mucus of the cervix to prevent the sperm from swimming through to get to uterus where the egg would be. To take agency over our bodies, we need to know what is happening within them.  

  • Vaginal bleeding associated with sex

I have done so much research into vaginal bleeding because it has happened to me several times. I always knew growing up that females typically bleed the first time they have sex. I never knew about reasons why there would be bleeding after the first time. And, not to mention, the internet is a scary place that tells me it can be anything from vaginal dryness to cancer. Some knowledge on this topic beforehand would have given me confidence on handling it when it did occur.

So, bottom line, the ‘ed’ in sex ed  is probably lacking just about everywhere it’s being taught. If there is anybody that would be in a good position to be prepared for sex, I would be up there. Yet, there I was, fretting about whether I had a risk of getting pregnant to the point that it interfered with my ability to focus on what I was doing that entire day. Isn’t it ridiculous that I still remember that the battles of Lexington and Concord started the Revolutionary War but not information that could have helped me avoid an STI and pregnancy?

I am not here to say that sexual education is only at fault. Maybe I have just forgotten some of it or wasn’t paying attention. I take responsibility for my actions and am fortunate to have many resources at my disposal for educating myself. However, sexual education is not fulfilling its very crucial job at keeping young people in this country healthy, safe, and happy by neglecting to give them what they need to make informed decisions. And we are all victims.

Some ideas to resolve this would be a more engaging curriculum and elective sexual education classes available later in high school. And, of course, comprehensive sexual education is a must. This includes information about contraception, sexual abuse, STIs, family life, relationships, and gender roles. There must be policy changes to adjust the curricula and give funding to schools to support this endeavor.

So, let’s get to it.

Image via Pixabay

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