Comprehensive Sex Ed for the Comprehensively Celibate
As someone who was all but completely celibate throughout high school and this was not at all by conscious choice, I can tell you that I often found it frustrating to deal with the fact that a lot of teenagers were under- or mis-informed about safer sex, that a lot of teenagers were sexually active, and that a lot of politicians and think tanks believed in stanching teenage sexual activity entirely. I was fourteen when I started listening to Loveline (though I didn't always agree with Dr. Drew) and it began my path of sex-pertise (as it were). I was eager to get informed. I discovered Scarleteen in my junior year of high school and happily perused the site, but at the same time, I'd wonder:
Why am I getting informed about something that's relevant to everyone else but not to me?
After all, a little less than half of 15-19 year olds have had sex at least once. But if you're not among those getting laid...nothing you read here can be relevant to you, right? Wrong.
In my case, my state of celibacy came with a bunch of unhealthy thoughts - what's the matter with me? Am I in a special class of social pariahs? I must be the only one who's more than willing to have sex but still not having it. I mean, throw in the fact that I'm a girl and that gender stereotypes abound, and that it's boys who have the monopoly on sexual desire and my gender was supposed to be the jealously guarded keeper of the keys. Here I was breaking that stereotype, and was it not any boy's dream come true? So why weren't they lining up to get with me? I was especially unattractive. QED.
You might already see something wrong with that line of thought. If not, I'll spell it out.
You're not unattractive. You're not the only one who'd love to be hooking up with someone but you're not. And it's not - I repeat, not - the case that heterosexual girls should automatically have a bevy of potential hookups and if they don't, that something's wrong with them.
This bears repeating. Being sexually active isn't necessarily a mark of being sexually desirable, and nor is being up for hooking up, but potential lovers don't seem or aren't interested, a mark of being sexually undesirable. Besides, chances are, you won't be celibate for the rest of your life. And whether you engage in partnered sex at age 16 or 25 or 60 or heck, never, you'll need to know how to be safe about it.
Not being sexually active does not exclude you from comprehensive sex education. (Know too, that there's more to sexuality than just what you do with others. There's masturbation, values, body image, relationships both romantic and non-romantic.)
This is why I'm not a fan of the line, "Don't have sex but if you must, then know how to use a condom." I realize that it's a logical fallacy but it still feels like there's an implication that if you're not sexually active, then all information is moot, as if the phrase excludes teens who aren't sexually active. I'd like to see that phrase changed to, "Whether you do or don't have sex and whether you start now or later or never, you should not be ignorant about safer sex. This information is crucial no matter what."
I actually believed in abstinence until marriage for a while. But even then - especially then, because my beliefs were intrinsic, and appeals to consequences made it seem like waiting wasn't good simply for its own sake - it rubbed me the wrong way when teachers said, "Don't have sex because that can lead to pregnancy." I mean, let's do a thought experiment where some form of birth control (not abstinence) exists that's 100% effective against both pregnancy and any and all STIs to boot. All bets are off then? All reasons to wait for sex are completely obviated? No? So there are more compelling reasons to wait to have sex than pregnancy or STIs? Then why the fear that learning about safer sex will lead to action? Knowing does not mean doing. Besides, I find that fear is a poor basis for sexual choices all around.
And this brings us full circle. Do not buy into stereotypes. You are not some sort of freak if you haven't slept with someone yet, and you cannot assume that you'll be abstinent forever. Most importantly of all, honest, accurate, unvarnished sexual education does not exclude you.
Abstinence does not mean ignorance.