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How Sex Education Failed Me

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February 27, 2014

Sex education in schools has been a contentious topic for a long time. A poster in a Kansas middle school brought up it up again after a parent became enrage that his child was being educated about “explicit” topics . Many schools in the country are failing to correctly teach children about contraceptives and safe sex, defaulting to the “Abstinence is King” philosophy. This led me to examine how the education I received about sex affected my relationships.

When I was in eighth grade, my parents were given the option of letting me take an Abstinence-Based Health class or Abstinence until Marriage. Both of them focused on abstinence being the best method of preventing unintended pregnancies. The only difference was that when contraceptives were discussed in the Abstinence until Marriage (AUM) class, they were talked about in relation to their failure rates. To my parents, AUM seemed liked the best decision because it sounded good. Of course no parent wants to think of their child being sexually active at thirteen.

However, I was given no choice. I was taught at an important age that condoms don’t work, that birth control pills have to be taken at the same time down to the minute to be effective, and that it was shameful to have sex before marriage. I was depriving my future husband of, “the best gift I could ever give him”—my virginity. Growing up in the Midwest, my parents didn’t talk to me about sex, assuming school would take care of it. Besides, I went to public school where it was supposed to be unbiased and without religious connotations. All of these ideas were unrealistic. Of course sex happens before marriage, of course parents should talk to their children about it, and of course contraception works.
So, going into a long-term relationship a few years later, these were my assumptions. I was scared to talk to my parents about getting birth control. That would be admitting I was a sexual being. I didn’t believe that condoms were effective either. So I saw the logical conclusion as risking it. I got lucky and did not have an unintended pregnancy. Eventually I found the courage and got birth control on my own, but I know that not everyone does.

Why is it that my story is like so many others? Minors are not given a choice about their own education. Parents are left to decide whether we have access to honest information about sexuality. And while the new bill in Kansas works to restrict young people from comprehensive sexual education, it is important that we create laws that restrict misinformation.

Most people are taught at a young age that education breaks down barriers. It helps break up cycles of poverty, oppression, and injustice. However, comprehensive sex education is usually an anomaly to other forms of education. School districts and governments do not put the same value on its authenticity and sincerity. It is dangerous for so many young adults to be misinformed when they begin to participate in sexual activity. A study by the University of Washington found that about one-third of those who became sexually active before they were fifteen had an STI, compared with sixteen percent who were sexually active later. It is critical that sex education happens before a person becomes sexually active. Everyone should have the right to a better education. Students should be able to decide whether they want to learn about contraceptives, and that information should be presented to accurately. School systems and the government should not be inhibiting that right.

Authored by Kendall Clement. She is the communications intern at Choice USA for the semester. She is a junior from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. 

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