A recent poll shows that American adults are twice as likely to want sex on the first date than they are to say that newly dating couple should “do it.” This means that what they say and do are contradicting one another. While many adults may think that new couples shouldn’t have sex, sex is still appealing to them, which may mean that sometimes sex happens without prior planning. It is in situations like these that a comprehensive sexual education can come in handy. Let’s aim no more STDs or unplanned pregnancies!
Just as some may argue that sexual education is decision made by parents, it can also be argued that it the curriculum should be decided on by each individual state, because if we’re being honest, America’s public school system is failing us. In 2010, a documentary titled Waiting for Superman showed viewers the shortcomings of public schooling in urban areas specifically. Desperate parents and educators are turning to public charter schools, which serve their children better than the public schools, where allegedly, their teachers don’t care. As our argument is for a comprehensive sexual education across the nation, we are arguing for a standardized education, one that is not left up to the states. (In this article, we will present arguments for standardized education as a general movement, but our applications and examples will focus on standard ized sex ed.)
In 2015, Jeb Bush argued in this Washington Post op-ed that state-decided education is better tailored to the needs of students. National education policy is so muddied up that the true purpose of education is being pushed to the side. Educating students, not payroll, tenure, should be the priority. Bruce Fuller’s book, Standardized Childhood: The Political and Cultural Struggle Over Early Education writes that the education reform movement is an orchestration of elitist society to “push a normative way of raising children.
While our public school system may be suffering, the answer is not to abandon it, and certainly not when it comes to a sexual education program. Sexual education is not a cultural preference, nor is it “normative.” Young people need to know about their bodies and their reproductive functions and processes. Bush argues that education today is not focused on students anymore. Sex ed is wholly about students. It is at least one thing students learn in grade school that has application outside of a classroom or job setting. Sex ed. is purely for the student’s benefit- it is not about “the future that liberals want.” It is not an erosion of culture. Safe sex education, knowledge about STDs and your natural bodily functions and processes are universal necessities. Regardless of what state, and even what country they live in, people are prone to the same dangers and misconceptions about sex and their bodies. Our push for standard comprehensive sex ed. is not pushing against cultural values either: sex ed is applicable to you whether you are unmarried or married, and whether you are straight or gay. All people deserve education, and sexual education is included in that.
Knowing this, it seems clear that allowing states to be in charge of sexual education standards and curriculum is not to our benefit. However, if this is not convincing enough, look at this issue from a socioeconomic standpoint. Waiting for Superman explains that schools are funded by the taxes, and in urban lower income areas, schools are getting less and less. Without a national standard for sexual education, there is nothing to prevent a school from cutting it altogether and leaving students totally unaware of what is happening with their bodies. This not only affects the students, but their potential sexual partner(s) or children as well. In schools with abstinence only policies, rates of teen pregnancy are much higher. If we can agree that teenagers are not ready to be parents, then we can agree that they need a comprehensive sex ed which includes more than just the “facts.”
Finally, proponents of states education believe that when states and school districts have control, the needs and wants of parents and students can be better addressed in the curriculum. This sounds lovely if you are living in a medium to high income area where a lot of parents have had an education and understand the value of schooling. In lower income areas, parents may not even have the time to be involved in their child’s education. Parent-teacher associations (PTAs) are a luxury for people who have time. Other barriers that require consideration are language barriers and education levels. State/district decided education is great for privileged people, but it is not great for everyone. College educated parents who speak English and have stable well paying jobs with predictable hours are better equipped to help schools develop a curriculum because they understand what is being considered. Parents who spend all their time working to support their families are counting on the schools to take care of education of education for them. Even college educated parents are expecting this- my parents expected that what I learned in school should be enough. Standardized sex ed. circumvents the differing home views on sexual education as well. Different cultural backgrounds can affect parents’ comfort level or choice to talk about sex with their kids. If there was no sexual education offered at school, my parents would have taught me themselves, or maybe they wouldn’t have. But because my school did offer it, we never needed to have “the talk” at home. If all schools implement the same sex ed. program, then regardless of parents’ position on it, and regardless of their involvement in the school process, students will leave schools with the necessary knowledge and tools.
State-decided education in the end, is a cop-out. If our national school system is suffering, the answer is not to pull kids out if it, but to improve it. In a society of so many disparities, education should be an equalizer, not a magnifier of disadvantage. Yet, state-decided education falls heavily in favor of more affluent states, and within them, more affluent districts. Standardized education touches on far more than just sexual education, but it’s the same as teaching kids how to read- they will all need it at some point in their lives. Superman isn’t coming; it’s up to us to save our own education system. So this is our demand of those in charge of education: give us a standardized sexual education program, or we will give you rising STD and teen pregnancy rates.
When I first started dating my boyfriend, my good friend innocently tried to come up with a couple name for us, à la “Kimye” and “Brangelina” (r.i.p.). My name is Liz, and his name starts with a J. To everyone else’s humor, and to her own genuine confusion, her best idea was “Jiz.” This incident just became another on a list one can reference as proof that my friend never went to middle school ( it was never really a drawing of Squidward). To be perfectly frank, I didn’t know “jiz” was semen until high school. My high school years are peppered with memories of my goonish guy friends insisting that in a class of teenage boys, these are things I have to know, and and that by the end of high school they’d have corrupted me. But I reminisce all this to ask: why do people come up with alternate terms anyway? According to a timeline of sexual slang, compiled by Jonathan Green, people have been using sexual slang since 1888, when “jism” was used to refer to semen.
According to Timothy Jay’s book, Why We Curse: A Neuro-psycho-social Theory of Speech, researchers in 1979 asked subjects to write the word they use or learned for various genitalia and sexual acts in different contexts. Parent context “produced the most restricted range of terms” in 1979, and again in 1982 when the study was replicated. Parents are most likely to speak in euphemisms and to avoid using “sexual words,” impressing upon children that these words have a lot of power. Until they begin to learn slang from their peers, these words and topics remain taboo. The study shows that people use separate lexicons depending on the social setting or listeners. Jay’s four systems of sexual language could technically all be used to describe the same thing, but herein lies the problem: the sex ed. we learn in school is only tied to the medical-scientific lexicon. Sex ed. in most schools is largely anatomical. It’s about organs, and microscopic processes, disease and protocol. It fails to address the cognitive, emotional aspects of sex, as well as our other understandings or sex. Sex ed. as it is now, is merely a chapter of anatomy class. It only serves to drive a wedge between parts of a whole, and not without consequences. Separating the feelings of sex from the science can lead to disassociation between them. The social implication that sex is taboo leaves many people to figure it out on their But what are the consequences?
At the risk of being too candid, I offer up my own realizations. My only form of sexual education was through school. My parents never had the talk with me. I understood sex at a basic procedural level. I never connected the dots or understood that the same procedures, specifically an erection, could happen without actually having intercourse. When I became aware of this fact through real life, I was horrified, because I’m planning to wait for marriage to have sex. Until it was explained to me that erections can happen often for guys, especially in the close company of their girlfriends and even at random, I was in a state. My lack of knowledge and disassociation between process and emotion left me unprepared, which in turn caused me shock, horror, and even shame, anger, and fear that I had done something against my values. For someone else, it could be an actual breaking or their values, an STD, or an unplanned pregnancy.
I have to say my classmates failed. There’s still a lot that I’m clueless about. And our separate contexts for different terms don’t bring us any closer. Rectifying this issue may ask us to take a flying leap out of our comfort zones. The gap in understanding isn’t necessarily caused by the fact that schools use medical-scientific terms. It may feel uncomfortable or too “formal” to say “vagina”, so use “pussy.” Too rigid to say “penis”, so say “dick.” (See what I did there?). And should you need to talk about semen, you may find it more casual and less obvious to say “jiz.”Our task is to tie these different language sets together so that we understand what we’re addressing no matter what words are used to communicate it, so that we can be prepared for sex (horizontal exercise, hot beef injection, bit-of-that-there, mattress polo, pudding…whatever you want to to call it), and everything that comes with it.