Opinion

Sex-ed in America should focus on female strength

Sexual education in the United States is massively flawed. Our reliance upon sex-negative and abstinence-only sex education is not an effective tool for teenagers and young adults who are navigating sexual relationships for the first time.

As a country, we do not give our youth the knowledge they need to succeed when it comes to avoiding the transmission of sexually transmitted infections, or unplanned pregnancy.

According to Advocates for Youth, U.S. teens account for about 71 percent of teenage pregnancies across all developed countries. This staggering statistic is attributed to United States government policies limiting access to sexual health services, as well as a lack of comfortability regarding sex in American society.

Real effects of this lack of sexual health services can be seen in our youth today. According to Jesse Haefner, a UW rehabilitation psychology major, she had little knowledge of sexual anatomy, hormones or how contraceptives worked until she came to college.

“I didn’t know anything about hormones other than that we all had them and they helped us grow until I came to college,” Haefner said. “Something like that is a real handicap for youth everywhere. What if they never learn it?”

This abhorrent lack of knowledge and education regarding contraceptives is a real problem for many people in the United States. According to “Contraceptive Jelly on Toast” authors Whatley and Henken, many United States women reported consuming contraceptive jelly on toast instead of applying it to their genitalia, because they were not given proper instructions on how to effectively use the contraceptive.

While their intent is to protect themselves from pregnancy, women are not armed with the necessary knowledge and support to execute this plan.

The problem of sexuality in America goes deeper than just a lack of medical support and services. Sex is regarded as something to be ashamed of for many women in this country.

According to Tolman and Higgins, the concept of “good girl/bad girl” embodies itself into the psyches of American women, leaving them to make poorly informed decisions about sex. Good girls do not have sex, hence they do not need to properly prepare or educate themselves for it.

Women have been forced to accept that sex is not for their own enjoyment, but is only for either male pleasure or for simple reproduction purposes. This complete and utter stripping of female power from the sexual experience leaves women unconfident and ignorant in ways to protect themselves from when they eventually do have sex.

Haefner came from a home in which sex was not taboo, but it also wasn’t something that was openly discussed. “If we were talking about sex, it was for reasons to keep me safe,” Haefner said. “It was never talked about in a way that dwelled on pleasure or the act of sex in any other context other than ‘You need to be safe.’”

This shows American society’s discomfort with discussing sex. Sexual well-being is more than just biological; we are willing to sacrifice our overall sexual experience in order to avoid something that may be perceived as awkward.

The fear of speaking openly about sex and its pleasures while teaching youth and young adults is a disservice to them. Only teaching sex as a biological occurrence strips a sense of autonomy from these young adults.

When they are not armed and equipped with the proper knowledge to make an informed decision about their own bodies and well-being, then they might make a decision that could negatively impact them for the rest of their lives. But can they be blamed?

Lack of proper sex education, as well as the expectation for women to prioritize things other than their own experience and desire during sex, is a toxic mix.

American teens, especially women, are not given the proper tools they need from a young age to make smart decisions about sex, and as a result our country boasts some of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

In order to properly protect ourselves and each other, the United States should follow the example of other countries who approach sexual education from an angle of sex positivity and intent to educate entirely, instead of from an angle of shame and partial education.

Samantha is a junior majoring in journalism and communication arts. What are your thoughts about sex-ed in America? How should we prepare the youth for their future sexual encounters? Please send any questions to opinions@dailycardinal.com

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