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Opinion: Social stigma?

Sex-ed should teach safe habits, not abstinence only

Published: Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 13:12

Sex pic

Roger Zhang

Urban Dictionary defines the “walk of shame” as “the walk across campus in the same clothes as yesterday after you slept with someone and spent the night in their dorm room.”

Thankfully, you won’t often hear the phrase “walk of shame” articulated verbally outside of a tv show parody of the “fratty party guy” archetype, but as a piece of language it speaks to a very simple fact about how sexuality is viewed in the eyes of mainstream American society: something to be ashamed of, something to keep hidden, but also something to be pointed out for crude laughs or advertising purposes.

Ever stopped and thought about how odd it is that we live in a world where 50 Shades of Grey — a romance novel describing in graphic detail the exploratory sexual experimentations of a young woman — could become a record setting best-seller among women young and old, while at the same time debates raged in Congress about whether or not people should have easy and affordable access to
It’s a result of the same mindset that forces CIA directors and US senators into early retirement, and it’s the reason why your mom went to go see Magic Mike. We live in a moment in history where the mainstream culture has embraced sexuality more than any other in the last few centuries at least, yet when it comes to talking about and doing the act itself, it’s still viewed as taboo and dirty.

Of course improving an entire society’s attitude toward a topic as loaded and touchy as sex is no small feat, but that change has to begin somewhere right? Why not start with the places where these attitudes first take hold, an environment of directed learning and social interaction. Why not start with our schools?
Currently the state of Texas advocates a policy of abstinence-only sex education. Known as the Abstinence-Centered Education Program, this policy encourages “the implementation of evidence-based interventions, as defined by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) that will delay initiation of sexual activity ... in youth ages fifteen (15) through nineteen (19)” in public schools grades 5-12.

Here’s the part I left out of that quote: “... as part of a continuum of services to decrease the teen pregnancy rate and rate of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) ...” This is certainly a noble goal for the department of State Health Services, but the fact of the matter is that there’s no evidence that presenting abstinence as the only acceptable option and neglecting matters of contraception and the healthy practice of responsible sexual behavior has any effect on these statistics at all.

If you need hard evidence and numbers then you need only look at the rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease to see that this sort of thinking is not working out. We must look beyond “abstinence-only programs” if we want to change the ways people think and talk about sexuality, which is the only way to allow our collective cultural attitudes about it to stop adversely affecting the health of our bodies, our minds and our relationships.

Sex is an everyday thing. Chances are high that everyone you’ve ever met or will ever meet has or will have sex. It’s society’s responsibility to make sure that they and all the people of today and tomorrow know about the benefits and yes, the risks that come with living a healthy sex life and to make sure they are armed with the knowledge and the skills of how to go about it safely and responsibly. Choosing when to start getting experience in the field is up to them.


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