Emma Kelly: The importance of proper sex education | TheUnion.com

Emma Kelly: The importance of proper sex education

I had my first and only sex education course in middle school. It was two weeks, maybe three at most. The course consisted of us learning what sexually transmitted infections are and identifying sex organs in both women and men.

My takeaway from the course wasn’t an understanding of sex and the effects it has. It was confusion. I was confused by the fact that I still knew as much about sex as before the course.

My parents and I have always had open conversations about sex and the aftermath of sex, and I am lucky to have parents who will talk with me about matters that make some so uncomfortable. But some kids aren’t able to have conversations with their parents about sex for a multitude of reasons.

So if I walked away from the sex-ed course feeling confused, I can only imagine how they felt. Sex education needs to be expanded to all aspects of sexual health, expression, interactions, and relationships. Sex education courses should be taught throughout middle school and high school. The lessons should be about more than STIs and what a reproductive system looks like. The lessons should provide students an understanding of the concept of sexuality, consent, contraceptives, reproductive health and ethics.

There are 24 out of 50 states in the United States that require sex-ed to be taught, and only 13 require the course to be medically accurate (USC Nursing). Isn’t that outrageous? That means teens and preteens all over the country experiencing the ups and downs of puberty aren’t even allowed access to the resources necessary.

The Centers for Disease Control, and Planned Parenthood both say that realistic, scientifically accurate, ethical, and responsible sex education result in teens who are more mindful and aware of how and when to be safe.

On Oct. 9 of last year, The Union uploaded a commentary by Terry McLaughlin. This column was on sex education and Planned Parenthood. She wrote, “The sex education classes created or backed by Planned Parenthood are not aimed at safety or prevention. They are aimed (an ex-employee of Planned Parenthood claims) at subtly persuading young people to be promiscuous. Promiscuity leads to teen pregnancy, and teen pregnancy leads to the lucrative business of abortion at Planned Parenthood.”

“Having Planned Parenthood design curriculum and provide prevention instruction to our children is akin to hiring a cigarette manufacturer to present smoking prevention programs to our students,” McLaughlin continued. “Planned Parenthood only profits when our youth are sexually active — seeking birth control, disease testing, or abortions.”

The entirety of the commentary seems inaccurate and a misconception of both Planned Parenthood and sexually active teenagers.

As a teenager myself, I know that teenagers have sex because they want to. You can’t prevent teenagers from having sex through abstinence-based education. You can, however, educate teens about how to be safe, and that is what Planned Parenthood does.

At the moment the human population is 7.8 billion. Some scientists believe we have surpassed our carrying capacity, the number in a population that when surpassed resources decrease immensely. Others believe we have not.

Either way, we need to encourage a decrease in the human population. If the human population continues to grow at the rate it’s at, there will be even more pollution and decreases invaluable resources.

The implementation of a more relevant, safe, and progressive sexual education consists of creating a new curriculum with an in-depth sex education course that dives into the meaning of sex, the concept of sexuality, contraceptives (how/when to use), reproductive health, and the ethics surrounding sexual relationships. The course would be integrated into the middle school and high school curriculum.

Sex education is massively overlooked and under-appreciated. The education of preteens and teens as they begin their journey through navigating sexuality and sexual relationships needs to be supported. Too many girls and boys give up their futures, or suffer through trauma and abuse, simply because they didn’t have the opportunity to have a better education on sex.

Teenagers have sex and explore the vast meanings of sexuality. It’s a fact. So why don’t we as a community embrace that by teaching kids and teenagers sex education that’s practical, realistic, and inclusive?

Emma Kelly is a 17-year-old junior at the Sierra Academy of Expeditionary Learning in Nevada City. She lives in Nevada City.

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