How We Talk About Sex Needs To Change

Let's go back to middle school for a second. First of all, those braces look great on you. Second of all, let's go over your class schedule for the day: algebra, American history, Earth science, language arts, and (eye roll) health class. After enduring countless just-say-no lessons on smoking, drugs, drinking, etc, you're about to reach the climax of the semester: The Sex Talk.
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Sex education is still a hot-button issue, and schools across the country can take very different approaches. Ideally, it should be parents and schools who inform children about the facts of sex. Why, then, do many of the anecdotes in the TIME video above pinpoint fictional media as a common stand-in for Sex 101? Rapper David Lee talks about learning from pornographic magazines, while trans activist Elizabeth Rivera got her first sex "talk" from the Playboy channel.
What's the point of sex ed when people's first memorable encounters with the topic have nothing to do with school, or even science?
Illustrated By Ly Ngo.
The video is a response to the recent petitions in Freemont, California, to ban the use of Your Health Today in schools. Why? Not only does the progressive book run through your sex-ed basics (puberty, pregnancy, contraception); it also goes into more current concerns like going with your partner to get tested for STIs, the discussion around legalizing prostitution, and how to make sex actually pleasurable.
The fact that parents initiated the protest against this book indicates the problem facing sexual education today: Sex ed exists, sure — but it needs to address current conversations (and practices) involving sex if it is going to make an impact.
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For example: We might be tired of hearing about it, but sexting really does make a difference in how young people talk about sex, to the point that one recent study urges sex-ed classes to add the topic to their curricula — and tells pediatricians to talk to their patients about it.
Conversations about sex do not exist in a vacuum. The retro stock footage shown in this video (along with Dr. Ruth's amazing story about actually believing in the stork) makes it seem like children bring their questions about sex immediately to their parents, all on their own. In reality, though, sex is something that gets discussed everywhere, regardless of whether there's an authority figure there to confirm any hypotheses. So, the job of sex-ed classes is to demystify sex facts and debunk sex myths, all while refusing to make this a taboo subject. When lines of communication open up, risk factors go down.
The video ends on what is probably its most significant message: Regardless of when or how sex becomes a part of your life, your priorities should be trusting yourself and making sure anyone you have sex with is someone you trust, too. It sounds simple, and yet it's taken way more than a semester for most people to learn.
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