Friday, May 15, 2009

Why We Need Comprehensive Sex Ed

Guest post by Liz Jeppesen, South Dakota State University

Today, my mother and I were watching TV. A commercial for Valtrex came on – the medication that helps prevent the spread of genital herpes – and the commercial said that one in five American adults has genital herpes. Both my mother and I commented on how surprisingly high that was, so I looked it up. The commercial was right – 22% of American adults have herpes simplex type 2 and 49% of women aged 15 to 39 will have genital herpes by 2025 if these trends continue. I told my mom what I’d found and she made a comment about how people need to stop sleeping around.

What she said next shocked me. She told me I needed to protect myself by using two condoms! I pointed out that doubling up causes increased friction and makes them more likely to tear. (I aced my women’s health class this semester and this was one of the topics!) Her response: “Sometimes. You just need to use lube.” All my life I’d known that I was an accidental pregnancy. Today I found out that I’m here because my mom thinks doubling up condoms provides better protection against STDs and pregnancy.

This is exactly why we need comprehensive sex ed; if we leave it to parents to teach their children about safer sex, many parents will refuse to tell their children about it at all and even the parents that do talk to their kids may end up spreading misinformation, like my mother just did. Thankfully, I’ve done my own research and I recognized it as misinformation. Adolescents that aren’t as informed might not be so lucky.

With comprehensive sex ed in schools, there is a structured curriculum that is fact-based and provides accurate information about ways to protect oneself. Students with access to comprehensive sex ed will be able to evaluate what their parents, friends, and the media tell them. They will be better able to recognize myths for what they are – misinformation. Just because parents mean well does not mean they know the facts. Giving teens access to comprehensive sex ed on top of what their parents and friends tell them is the best way to reduce the growing STD rates and prevent unintended pregnancies.

Originally posted at The "F" Word: Feminism at South Dakota State University. Illustration by Tom Lindsay via Threadless.

1 comment:

Tania said...

Great post, Liz! I'm curious to know if your Mom went to any of the public schools in South Carolina -- where young people are known to put spermicidal jelly on toast and give their boyfriends their BC pills.