Teenagers, high school, and safer sex education

I posted this story on Facebook the other day. It’s about a California school district that was failing to inform its students on how to protect themselves sexually (and even completely misinforming them). The post received a decent number of comments and when I started responding, it ended up a little too long for a FB comment . . . and this is what it turned into!

My mom was 17 years old when I was born, 16 when she got pregnant. Any stereotypes you may believe about teen moms never existed in my childhood, but I think it did help lead my mom to have more realistic approaches to our conversations when I was a teenager.

We had the “sex talk” when I was 15, less than a year before she died. She told me that she did not expect me to wait until marriage. She said she hoped I would, but that she wasn’t stupid and she didn’t expect it. She said she did expect me to wait until I was mature enough and until I was with someone I loved. She said, “15 is too young, so is 16, so is 17, but whenever you decide you’re ready, I do hope you’ll talk to me first.”

I started taking birth control pills when I was 16. I was not sexually active at the time, but I did have horrible periods and what I later found out were cysts on my ovaries.

When I was 18, my boyfriend lived in Massachusetts. He came down every other weekend and stayed at his mother’s (empty) house, and more often than not, I spent the entire weekend there as well.

I remember talking with my aunt in the kitchen one day and I forget exactly how the topic came up, but I mentioned that I was still a virgin. She didn’t believe me. I basically got a, “Dayle, I’m not stupid.”

I thought, “Wow. I have friends with purity rings who have been having sex for 2 years and their parents don’t have a clue. Here I’m telling the truth about not having sex and my aunt thinks I’m lying!” Then I told her to go with me to gynecologist if she didn’t believe me!

The conversation dissipated after that. . . . I wonder why 😉

I had opportunity. I had a boyfriend whom I loved. But I waited because I didn’t feel I was ready. I never felt pressured one way or the other. I never felt like I needed to use sex to rebel. I was a virgin until I was 21 and I can honestly say that I would have spoken to my mom first . . . had she been alive at the time.

I value the open communication I had with my mom, but she wasn’t around to educate me on everything I needed to know. Even if she had been, I doubt she could have educated me on everything I needed to know. My school was there for the rest of it.

In my sophomore year of high school, I joined the HIV/AIDS Peer Counseling Committee. Here’s how it worked – we got together regularly and discussed different ways we could help our community and how we could help educate other students. Sometimes we had guests come in and talk with us about safer sex. We learned about different STDs and how they were contracted. We learned about damn near every type of protection available, how each was used, and what each protected against. Some made jokes and giggled as we put condoms on cucumbers, but we learned how to do it.

When our peer counselors (who were only a few years older than we were) left, we got together in groups and visited all of the Health classes so that we could share the information. Our “lessons” were overseen by our Health teacher and she helped out when needed, but we taught the class.

Some of us were sexually active. Some of us weren’t. But all of us were informed.

Sex education does not encourage teenagers to have sex. I know we all want to think our kids are innocent. I know no one wants to think that their teenagers are thinking about sex, much less actually having sex. But the fact is that they do. And those who are going to wait are going to wait regardless of whether they are given accurate information . . . but at least with the accurate information, they can help educate others.

Maybe some teens will learn everything they need to know from their parents. Maybe some teens will be ambitious enough to seek out the information on their own. But is it worth the risk for those who don’t fall into either category?

Would you prefer teens who have sex (whether you consider that to be right or wrong, a mistake or not) deal with unwanted pregnancies, STDs, or even die than be educated and know how to protect themselves?

We teach our kids plenty of things in high school that they will never, ever use again. I’ve never needed to know what the insides of a worm look like. I haven’t touched a protractor or compass since Geometry class. I have NO IDEA what I learned in an entire year of Chemistry. But sex education has never lost its importance in my life.

Photo Credit – Birth Control Pills
Photo Credit – Condoms on Cucumbers

4 responses to this post.

  1. You are right on about your analysis of teens – those who are going to try it are not “encouraged” at all by sex education; they are only informed. Those who are apt to try it are going to try it no matter what, really and truly. And those who are going to hold out also do so no matter what. I honestly can’t believe there is any community in this day and age that would hold out on sex education. How ill-informed.
    And I agree with you wholeheartedly – schools really need to have more stuff that kids will use for the rest of their lives, not less of it!

    Reply

    • Thank you, Anne!

      Throughout my education it was always emphasized that abstinence was the only 100% effective way of preventing pregnancy and STDs. And that was always followed up with, “but if you’re going to do it, at least know how to best protect yourself.” We were told there’s no such thing as *safe* sex, but there is *safer* sex.

      I just cannot understand the opposition’s view on this. I cannot understand a mentality of “the less you know, the better.” {sigh}

      Reply

  2. I love this. I also waited until my early 20’s to have sex, but my mom never believed me. I too told her to take me to the doctor if she didn’t believe me. Half the time it was the pastor’s kids who were having sex.

    And I couldn’t agree more, schools need to focus on what kids really “need” to learn instead of just teaching abstinence and living in denial that it isn’t working.

    Reply

    • Thanks, Jen 🙂

      Why are the “good girls” the ones who aren’t believed? LOL

      I also don’t understand the idea that this shouldn’t part of a school’s job. Schools teach our kids about all kinds of health issues, why the hell would we stop at sexual health?!

      Reply

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