Students’ health and futures are on the line when considering ways to inform them about their anatomy and safe sex.
“Pulling out isn’t an effective method,” my friend said, tilting his head over a GroupMe message he was about to send.
He’d meant it as a joke. Someone had said they had just pulled in, and he’d joked that they should remember to pull out. It was a dumb comment, but there was something to it. Misunderstanding about sex penetrate all levels of society and our conversations.
Freshman year, I had to explain to a girl that, no, a tampon cannot “take your virginity” or “pop your cherry,” and that all hymens (what so many people call “a cherry”) don’t always have to be broken; they’re a fairly rigid membrane that come on all shapes and depend on the person. From the look on her face, you’d think I’d just told her Trump would be President in a few years.
So many of the ways we talk about and think about sex are funny in all the ways they aren’t heartbreaking. Even in college, many people don’t understand their bodies or how to protect themselves and their partner or partners during sex. The easiest way to fix this is to teach sex ed.
Of course, sex education should be a priority because sex plays a vital role in many people’s lives, yet it is so rarely discussed frankly and with facts. Incorporating sex ed would allow students to prepare for the future and take better care of the themselves., The best time to teach people about sex is before they start having it, in middle and high school, so that people are more informed as they grow up. The second-best option is to teach them now, in college, about anatomy, contraception, STIs and the most common myths about sex and the truth behind them.
We already know that many college students are having sex. All the abstinence-peddling in the Bible Belt won’t change that. What we can change is how safe people are when they engage in sexual activities. Now is the time to make sure that sexually active students know how to protect themselves, where to go to get tested for STIs and what to do if they get them.
These lessons could be part of the mandatory, one-credit-hour orientation class that every student takes, which is in the curriculum already and would not suffer from devoting a few classes to a different kind of education. Sex ed could also take the form of a more voluntary class, and faculty could integrate it into student life in the same way that Bringing in the Bystander teaches classes about consent and bystander intervention. Professors could invite groups in to teach about sex ed in their classes for an hour, which is more than enough time to cover the basics.
The biggest embarrassment is not in talking about sex, but in not educating people enough to ensure that they are educated enough to make informed decisions about their own bodies.