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When I was 16, sex education was a week long endeavor that took place during your health/gym period. The things I remember: a shudder-inducing STD slideshow, my teacher shoving her entire hand in a condom, and being one of several hand-selected students to take part in an STD infection chain. Helpful, right?

Thinking of all the knowledge I have now, the sex education I received in high school barely even scratched the surface of what I needed to know.

Picture me, at 16, googling things like “Can you get pregnant if you have sex on your period?” or “Where can I get Plan B and how much does it cost?” I had to rely on the Internet for all of my sexual health information because all I learned in sex ed was that STDs were disgusting, abstinence was the best option, and if a guy says his penis is too large to fit into a condom, he’s lying (hence hand in condom).

 

 

Things that weren’t covered in my sex ed classes: consent, yeast and bladder infections, LGBTQ+ relationships, long-acting reversible contraceptives, where to get birth control, how to use birth control, female pleasure, and a plethora of other topics crucial to young people.

I felt so dirty in my sex ed class. I felt demonized for having sexual feelings, for being curious about sex and for having questions. The truth is a lot of people sitting in that classroom with me needed to have a real conversation with an adult about sex. They needed to know about options for preventing pregnancy and STDs that weren’t abstinence. They needed someone to tell them that not all sexual relationships are between a man and a woman. They needed to know about the gender spectrum, different sexualities, and gender dysphoria. And, ultimately, the school system failed them.

Abstinence-only sex ed is focused almost entirely on deterring students from having sex, and I think it misses the point completely. It uses scare tactics and lack of information as a weapon, which is as dishonest as it is dangerous. When abstinence-only sex education is employed, it leaves a population of sexually active people vulnerable and uninformed. There’s nothing noble in that.

What if we were honest about sex from the beginning? What if we respected teenagers enough to teach them about their bodies openly and honestly? What if we didn’t shame those engaging in sex in high school and instead provided them with tools and information to keep them safe?

I hope someday that all kids will be able to receive a comprehensive, honest sex education from their schools. I worry, though, that the current presidential administration will work to limit the progress that has been made in sex education and instead, turn back the clock. I worry that  children will have to go to the depths of the internet to answer their sex questions rather than being able to discuss them openly and safely in a classroom setting. I worry teenagers will be made to feel dirty for their sexuality, rather than to feel supported and well-equipped. I worry that abstinence-only sex education, as endorsed by this administration, will become the only tools kids are given at school to navigate the most confusing and challenging time of their life.

Sex is life, people. Almost everyone will do it, is doing it, or has done it. It’s one of the most basic parts of who we are and a huge part of our day to day health. Sex education must be considered a necessary part of health education, one in which kids can get all the facts and feel free to ask questions. When we arm our youth with the knowledge they need to make informed and safe sexual decisions, we empower them to take control of their reproductive health and trust them to know when they are ready to do so.

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Samantha Hart, Communications Intern

Samantha Hart is an incoming senior at Virginia Tech, where she majors in Communications and Political Science. She is a passionate advocate for human rights, equality, and reproductive justice.