I was watching a debate about sex education today, one rife with a lot of ludicrous statements, but the statement that quality sex education could not possibly help prevent sexual abuse stuck with me. It was all the more infuriating as someone who knows too well that a lack of knowledge about bodies and sex, and a lack of information about sexual consent and autonomy are some of the hugest reasons why sexual abuse is so prevalent.
What's the typical use effectiveness rate for abstinence? All I can find anywhere, even at organizations that teach abstinence, or say it's the only effective method of contraception, is the perfect use rate. How well does it really work for people in real life? Why doesn't anyone have that information on this method when we do for every other method?...
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.
In case it isn't obvious from the message boards and our peer-written content on the site, peer-based sex education and support is really important to and at Scarleteen. While I love my job as a sex educator who is an older adult, and think there's a lot of value in my doing this work, at the same time I feel like there's an extra power and a special kind of support with peer-to-peer education and interaction that I can't do.
I am 17, and I have a 15 year old sister who is Autistic. I also come from an EXTREMELY Catholic family. I never got a sex talk - I straight-up asked my dad what sex meant when I was 9 or 10, and he gave me some very unhelpful answer about a gift that God intended to be shared between a man and a woman in marriage....
In many ways, sex education often seems to get stuck in two big places. Plenty of people seem to think that if you're talking about sex to young people at all -- no matter how you're talking about it, no matter why you're talking about it -- that's progressive enough, and for some, that in and of itself is too progressive. Despite Americans having over 100 years to get used to sex education at this point, for many it still seems an innovation, and not a particularly welcome one.