The only thing I remember from high school sex ed, taught by my health teacher, who was also my driver’s ed teacher, is: Don’t double-bag or you’ll have to go fishing.
Wise words to be sure, yet how do we expect a few classes of gross slide shows of STDs. And if you’re lucky, putting a condom on a banana, to prepare the youth for a lifetime of good sexual health?
I went to high school in a school system with so-called comprehensive sex education, so if my memories of sex ed only conjure up a confused bag boy at Harris Teeter, I wonder what comes to mind for my abstinence-only counterparts?
North Carolina recently passed the Healthy Youth Act, which allows parents to decide whether a child will opt out of the “comprehensive” part of sex education.
Now driver’s ed teachers around the state will have to brush up on their knowledge of sexual health. Not to suggest that teachers are incapable of educating our youth, but expecting anyone to prepare young people for such a major part of their lives in one or two class periods is laughable.
The vast majority of people will have sex at some point in their lives. If you haven’t had sex yet, chances are you will. While science today has made it unnecessary to actually have sex to reproduce, I’m betting it will remain a popular means of procreation for years to come. It’s a great way to exercise without having to leave the house and a good stress reliever, as well as a way to connect with an intimate partner. (Not to play down the complications involved with sex, of course.)
But what do you really know about sexual health?
When you’re ready to take that step, whose voice do you hear in your head? Your driver’s ed teacher’s? Your parents’? Your religious leader’s? Your friends’? Your doctor’s? Ron Jeremy’s?
Chances are only one of those people has any medical training. Even if your parents sat you down for “the talk,” are they up to date on the three new methods of birth control that have come out in the past 10 years? Or that it’s no longer recommended to use spermicide with condoms?
One of the many great things about sexual health is that you don’t have to be a doctor to know the basics. Try Cosmo for new sex positions, but if you’re wondering about contraception or your risk for different STDs or the newest developments in the world of pap smears, there are several ways to educate yourself.
The Internet. For better or for worse, this is where many people get their sex info. Check out these reputable Web sites for info on STIs, contraception and sexual health: www.goaskalice.columbia.edu, www.managingcontraception.com or www.cdc.gov/STD.
The library. Searching for “sex” in the UNC online catalogue gives you 35,929 results, so try being a little more specific. Remember to check the publishing date! Information on contraception has changed a lot even in the past few years.
Talk to a sexpert. Did you know UNC has free and confidential counseling on birth control, STDs and sexual health? To make an appointment with a Carolina Health Education Counselor of Sexuality, call 919-966-3658.
Bottom line: Don’t expect what you did or didn’t learn in high school about sex to prepare you for life. Empower yourself; take control of your health; be your own sex educator!
And remember, don’t double bag … or you’ll have to go fishing.
Laura Glish, UNC ‘09, is currently working as a sexual health educator. Contact Laura at email@example.com.
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