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All I Want for Christmas is YOU…th Comprehensive Sex Ed!

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December 3, 2013

While everyone is busy jotting down the latest electronics on their Christmas Wish List, there’s something even better than the newest iPhone, tablet, or clothes from Urban Outfitters that I want for Christmas this year: comprehensive sex education.

Now, you may think that teaching teens medically accurate, age appropriate sex education is a given in the 21st century. I mean, why would teachers lie to teens about safe sex and withhold life-saving information on how to become healthy adults and form healthy relationships? This Is America! We live in a country where no one would tell teens that “condoms cause cancer,” “birth control pills cause abortions,” “sex is worse for girls because they are much easier to infect and easier to damage,” “condoms have holes in them and a failure rate of 14 percent,” or “If you take birth control, your mother hates you” (just in case you don’t know, these are all lies…right mom?).Oh wait. My bad. These “teachers” DID tell these lies to thousands of students just this year.

I may not have had the most open, honest sex-ed growing up, but after reading this article, I said I was grateful that I never had to listen and “learn” from these speakers when I was in school this past Thanksgiving. It is exactly this kind of homophobic, sexist, invalid rhetoric surrounding teen sexuality that influenced my priorities this holiday season. While others were hunting down new flat screen TVs, the latest computers, and the PlayStation 4 (or XBOX One) this past Black Friday, I was wondering what it would have been like if there was such thing as a “Teen Sexuality Friday,” where teens could get discounted/free condoms, books, videos, and accurate information on their bodies, safe sex, relationships, and pleasure (yes, pleasure should be incorporated in discussions about sex, as crazy as it sounds).

And this year, maybe I will get my Christmas wish granted.

On February 14, 2013, Representative Barbara Lee and Senator Frank Lautenberg re-introduced the Real Education for Health Youth Act to Congress (Talk about timing! What’s not to love about wanting to improve teen sexual health on Valentine’s Day?)  Unfortunately, Senator Lautenberg died before he could see this bill through, which makes it even more imperative that youth and their supporters push for this bill to go further than it has before, when it was first introduced in 2011 and left sitting in committee. Moreover, with President Obama overtly supporting comprehensive sex education in the Affordable Care Act, the support of this bill from major youth-focused organizations (Advocates for Youth, SIECUS, and, of course, Choice USA), and the support of the majority of the American population, now is the perfect time to ring in the new year with even more progressive change in sex education.

For all of these reasons, this Christmas all I want is for youth to have more access to comprehensive sex education. But the magic of Santa Claus cannot grant me this wish, because it is not something that can be neatly wrapped in a box and dropped down my (non-existent) chimney. It is something that we, as a community who supports the right to medically accurate health information, have to raise our voices for and work together as a unified team.

So thank you, youth leaders and activists, for standing up for our rights. Thank you, President Obama, for establishing the first federal funding for comprehensive sex education. Thank you, Joycelyn Elders, previous U.S. Surgeon General, for risking your career to make sure youth sexuality was seen as something normal and positive (aka sex positive). Thank you, Representative Lee, for creating a bill that could change the world of sex education for the better. And thank you, Senator Lautenberg, for your support and dedication to youth, and everyone’s right to comprehensive sex education. We will do all we can to make sure your legacy lives on in the heart of the movement for comprehensive sex education.

 Written by Alifa Watkins, a Choice USA Communications Intern. Alifa is a senior at American University in Washington, D.C. majoring in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and minoring in Psychology. 

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