“Sexuality is about much more than just sex. It includes your body, your biological sex, your gender, your gender identity, your sexual orientation, your desires and thoughts, your values and ideals about life and love, and your sexual behaviors.” -Planned Parenthood
Sex (def.) “When a bird has sex with a bee.” -Urban Dictionary
Okay, so maybe the last snippet was a little out there, but I hope you giggled a bit. Whoever posted that definition on Urban Dictionary back in 2006 probably had their reasons. Anyway, we’re talking about sex today. What I had meant to be one big ‘ole…blog post has turned into a two-part blog so that I don’t run you all dry with my ranting. If you haven’t ready my first post, please go ahead and do so here. If you’re up-to-date, feel free to continue on with part two…
I had the opportunity a while back to interview a good family friend who works as the coordinator for the North Carolina Fetal Alcohol Prevention Program. Amy Hendricks, who holds a Bachelors in Public Health with a Minor in School Health from Florida State, talked with me on the phone about her professional opinion revolving around sex education in our public schools.
After discussing the appropriate age(s) for kids to begin learning about their bodies and sexuality, Amy and I delved into the practice of teaching sex education. We began with some of the most important points that teens should learn in an educational environment. First and foremost, Amy began, “One of the most important things is there is no ‘normal’ . . . ‘normal’ needs to be taken out of our vocabulary.” Or, in other words, we–as a society–need to recognize those that are transgender, gay, bisexual, asexual, etc. as normal with normal sexual drives. The sex norm is not a man and a woman. Sex education should be taught for all types of sex and should fit all types of sexuality, as well as, teach acceptance.
Along the same lines, Amy and I both agreed that making sex taboo does nothing but degrade the learning environment. Unfortunately, most instructors only teach about the act of intercourse and, since it’s the sexual act that is taboo (example: every romance movie you’ve ever seen has shown plenty of foreplay but no sex), this fails to properly inform kids and teens about the wide variety of things that are encompassed by the term sexuality.
Upon asking Amy about misconceptions teens might learn in sex ed classes, her response surprised me. Though I agreed with her immediately, what she initially said truly opens a whole new view on what and how sex education should be taught:
“It depends on who is teaching and how it is delivered. Delivery needs to be confident and neutral and respectful. Not ‘just anyone’ can deliver this curriculum. Disturbances are because of the presenter; you can’t leave out things because they make you feel uncomfortable.”
This idea makes so much sense in the world of education. English teachers teach because they love literature. Algebra teachers teach because they love math. Sex education teachers should teach because they love…well, they love to teach about sexuality and safe sex as well as spread the word on safe practices. Gym coaches shouldn’t be teaching preteens and teens about their bodies; trained professionals should teach a thorough curriculum to students in order to ensure that kids are being taught everything they need to know without a biased opinion interfering.
Sex and sexuality should be taught in a positive light as well. Sexuality is a natural thing, so why do we demonize it? Do we demonize eating food or going to the bathroom? Sexuality–like every other natural human function–should be taught in a light that allows kids to form their own opinions and not be predisposed with dark images surrounding sexuality. As Amy put this topic, “[Sexuality] is not something that needs to be entered into lightly because being sexually active comes with a lot of responsibility and possible consequences,” and the abstinence-only/”just say no” programs are proving ineffective since they don’t truly teach teens about sex. Kids see sexuality in the media every day and they are beginning to see it at younger and younger ages, so how do you expect kids to abstain from sex when they are constantly exposed to it on a daily basis?
The fact that teens are not abstaining from sex means that condoms and contraceptives should be available within high schools for kids to access. In North Carolina, it is illegal to distribute condoms on school grounds. Though this is a controversial topic, Amy and I strongly agree that they should be readily available on high school campuses. Considering certain teens’ situations, they sometimes aren’t able to afford contraceptives or don’t have the ability to travel to their local health department. Most teens don’t want to ask for their parents’ help with contraceptives and sex. Because of this and the lack of availability of contraceptives, the teen pregnancy rate only continues to creep up. If, for whatever reason, the school cannot have condoms and contraceptives available, the school nurse or sex education teacher should provide students with a list of places they can access them.
In the end, it is a necessity that teens learn about sex and their body. As Amy put it, “This is the body we have for our lifetime and we need to take care of it. . .if you have a better understanding of your body and sexuality, you have more control of it and decisions made about it.” We need to know how to properly care about our bodies because that–ultimately–is what makes us respect our bodies. Body and sex shame do not belong among the things that we feel guilty for; we were not created to be shamed.
Teens and children carry what they know about sex and sexuality into adulthood and our ultimate aim as a society should be to better prepare our future leaders and generations for a healthier lifestyle.