the class we loved to hate: the horror that is Sex Ed…

I’m not sure how it happened, but I recently stumbled across the amazingness that is Last Week Tonight. John Oliver, a British comedian, hosts his own show on HBO covering news stories from the past seven days.

In just two days, Oliver has taught me more about how the United States is effed up than I ever learned in all my years of school combined. And to add to it, he’s my kind of funny.

Now, I’m an American. I live “abroad,” if you will. I consider myself to be somewhat “with the times” and I try to keep up with the happenings in the Americas (and the world), including (but not limited to) presidential race candidates (kind of) and school shooting atrocities. While this is true, I was also totally unaware of many other things happening in my home country.

I had no idea that Washington D.C. has no real representation in our capital; that Syrian and other refugees are streaming into European countries, some of which are greeting them with what can be described as nothing less than disgusting refusals to accept them; about how broken the bail and public defenders systems are in America; or about the truly sickening behavior of many televangelists (I knew a little, but not this much. And I’m NOT saying all televangelists are like this, but sadly, many are.).

Needless to say, John’s given me a bit of an education. And I’m obsessed. So imagine my glee when I came across a video discussing the state of Sex Education in the great U.S. of A.

That’s right. I was stoked. I love to talk about sex and if you’ve been reading for a while, you’re probably familiar with my rant on how I believe parents should talk more openly with their kids about sex. I realize that no one wants to talk with their kids about the birds and the bees; but trust me, as a former child, no kid wants to talk with their parents about sex. But that’s kind of not the point.

Many parents – to get out of this responsibility – rely on the school to inform their kids about sex. While I still think parents should talk with their kids, I also think it’s important that kids get an actual education about human sexuality at school. Here’s the scary part: Sex Ed is a complete clusterfuck.

So, to get to the point, I knew it was messed up; but like so many other things, I had no idea how much. I’ll quit talking and just let you watch it.

So, along with a plethora of other things we seriously need to fix in the Americas, this is one of them. I’m not saying anyone should base their entire campaign on it, but let’s be honest… John brings up some very good points:

  1. There’s no required standard for sexual education in the United States.
  2. Only 22 states mandate that sex ed is taught in schools and of those 22, only 13 require that the information be medically accurate. (Um, WHAT?!)
  3. Because there are no guidelines, the information presented in sex ed classes can vary not just from state to state, but also from city to city and even district to district.
  4. Some schools allow “abstinence only” programs (which I went through in Indiana, by the way) that shame kids into believing they’re dirty or wrong for having completely natural urges.
  5. Said abstinence programs demean students who have engaged in sexual activities before or who may choose to at a later time by comparing them to chewed gum, nasty shoes, and used tape.
  6. Sex ed programs don’t talk enough about consent and apparently, consent is not something that everyone just automatically understands. Apparently, “No” can also mean “Maybe.”
  7. Many sex ed courses don’t even begin to cover the reality of kids struggling with their mixed feelings about sex, including attraction to the same sex.

I feel that my fourth and fifth points should be accompanied by a little clarification. (I don’t need to do this, but I’m doing it anyway.) I am not – I repeat, NOT – saying that abstinence is wrong, bad, or otherwise outdated. I absolutely believe and agree that it is a wise choice. It is the safest way to prevent pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and broken emotions (duh). It’s an important decision, but it’s also just that: A DECISION.

If someone decides to be sexually active, that’s their decision. They should have all the information to make that decision to the best of their ability. And regardless of what they choose, they certainly should not be shamed for making it.

So, needless to say, there’s some work to be done on the sex ed front. It’s that annual class that everyone loves to hate, but it’s more important than we may have ever realized. Kids need to have the facts. They need to understand that they’re truly making decisions that could affect them the rest of their lives; but we shouldn’t be shaming or scaring them into abstinence. We need to give them the truth and teach them how to be safe if they choose to be sexually active.

Because remember: it’s their choice, not yours.

Image via Flickr user TechCrunch

2 Comments

    • We lived in a suburb of Indy: Fishers. I only lived there two years, during junior high. My sister is now living in Muncie.

      We know some people in Fort Wayne. What a coincidence! Thanks for reading, Bridget!

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