Sexual education in America has many different faces. And like anything with more than one face, that can be a horrifying experience. America allocates federal funds to abstinence programs, but depending on where you live, the sexual education you receive can vary tremendously. In Massachusetts for instance, the state does not require sexual education and leaves that decision up to the individual school boards. However, in Indiana, sex ed is required, and this instruction must include the following:
- Teach abstinence from sexual activity outside of marriage as the expected standard for all school age children;
- Include that abstinence from sexual activity is the only certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and other associated health problems; and
- Include that the best way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases and other associated health problems is to establish a mutually faithful monogamous relationship in the context of marriage.
Indiana schools are also expected to instruct on HIV/AIDS and “integrate this effort to the extent possible with instruction on other dangerous communicable diseases.”
Clearly, two kids growing up in either state are going to have wildly different views and understandings about sex, relationships, birth, and STD’s.
And then there are sex ed speakers like Pam Stenzel.
She is very animated, and loud and popular, standing out in the large pool of sex education speakers. However, not all the information she provides seems to be accurate. She appears to rely heavily on fear mongering, and sends a message that the only pure wholesome people are those who have not had pre-marital sex.
There are also comprehensive sexual education programs available. These programs talk about more than just giving birth, or remaining abstinent until marriage. They include instruction on puberty, birth control, and possible consequences to casual sex.
But you will notice that in that video, they are using euphemisms and metaphors to talk about sex and sexual health. Perhaps it is because talking about these things is uncomfortable and can be awkward, especially with parents or children. But by not using direct language and talking clealy about these topics, we are not communicating everything that needs to be communicated.
This summer, after watching them perform throughout my time as a student at UMass Amherst, I decided to try out for the summer troupe of the The Not Ready For Bedtime Players. It was a informative, eye opening experience. Among my groups of friends, I noticed that I was more up to speed on sexual health than most, thanks to hours of independent study in my public library in middle school. Yet still, each day I went into work, I learned something new, whether from my co-workers or the incoming freshman who would come up and ask us questions at the end of the show.
I learned what it means to talk openly and honestly with your sexual partners, and learned more about sexual orientation, identity, and expression than I had ever learned before. It truly was one of the most comprehensive sexual health lessons I’ve ever had, and I got the same feeling from the new students making up our audience. Below you will find a recording of our final show of New Students Orientation in the Summer of 2015.
I know it is hard to start these conversations with you parents or children. I hope watching the video of our last performance will raise some questions, and provide some answers in order to get you started down the path to having open, frank discussions with young people about the subjects of sex, sexual health, sexual orientation and identity, STDs, consent, and the whole gamut of other topics touched on in this video and those which we could not get to.
This is the most important education young people will get through 12th grade, and it is one that they will use every day of their lives. Don’t let misinformation, or the media be what shapes them into adulthood.
IF YOU MISSED THE CHANCE TO LISTEN LIVE, BELOW IS THE LINK TO THE FULL RADIO SHOW. ENJOY!