The U.S. cannot seem to come to an agreement about how to reasonably educate kids about sex, with many states and districts opting for “abstinence only” sex education time and again, (which I find both a remarkably funny concept and remarkably sad for the kids and teens affected.)
As the product of a K-8 Catholic school, where my “sex ed” units were taught in religion classes with anything that sex actually involves (like, I don’t know, physical contact with another person?!?) rarely even alluded to, I’ve somehow emerged on the other side relatively unscathed. (“Relatively” is operative.) Many teens and young adults in other surroundings, however, do not. This is some serious injustice, y’all.
Back in middle school, many chapters of my “Fully Alive” (lol) books were all about the holiness and purity of your body that would be vanquished if you had sex the wrong way at the wrong time and the guilt that one should feel about having sex too young.
Then, there were the days when we watched the video of the Abstinence Super Couple: two young, plucky, and attractive professional public speakers who said they were happily married because they had “waited.” One was a virgin, and the other had re-virginized when she found Jesus. They told us that’s how they were getting to heaven. Our teachers nodded. That was that.
At the time, I accepted what I was presented with. I was in an insulated environment and had no resources with which to intelligently question it. Now I look back and wonder (well, YELL is more accurate): Why was nothing about sex actually discussed in these hours of sex and body education? Would it have killed them to say the word “vagina”? “penis”? “STI”? birth control”? “pleasure”???
Apparently, in their eyes, the answer is yes. They may have thought they would be hell-bound for actually educating about healthy sexual practices rather than teaching kids to fear their bodies. So adults give incomplete and often incorrect information, and kids don’t get the full picture and lose some of their agency.
But, wait…the Internet is here to help! Picking up slack, as it so often does. There are websites and all manner of videos dedicated to helping preteens and teens understand sex, sexuality, and bodies beyond “DON’T TOUCH YOURSELF OR ANYONE ELSE TILL MARRIAGE, M’KAY?”
The creators of these sex ed resources give me a little hope where legislators, school administrators, and parents sometimes don’t. The Internet is a vast resource for educating oneself, and anyone who wants to find this info can easily access it. Cyber space offers us an equal opportunity resource, and I only hope that kids and parents are finding, using, and sharing this information like lives depend on it. Because they really, really do.