We all remember the embarrassment of our science teacher telling us about the menstrual cycle, about fertilisation, and of course the dreaded STDs.
Sex education isn’t a comfortable topic, especially when you’re a pre teen. But at the end of the day, sexual health is a huge deal now and its so important that our generation are educated about it, so I think its essential that it’s part of the curriculum. I feel the stigma surrounding sex education is virtually non existant now- everyone knows it has to be taught and that it’s beneficial. However the real issue is that what is taught just isn’t enough to ensure our sexual health.
Yes, we’re taught the basics, we know ‘how babies are made’. And I can’t criticise the whole system as education about the menstrual cycle, and the emotional consequences of sex are actually very thorough and well taught. Yet we’re not taught in detail what constitutes safe sex, it’s always the usual ‘just use protection’, however with a vast majority of young individuals still having sex without a condom, the message clearly isn’t sinking in. There needs to be an increase in places where sexually active teens can access protection, such as in school or college. And clearly education about the risks of not using protection needs to be stepped up, everyone is aware of pregnancy, however as an increasing number of females are on the contraceptive pill many think there is no need to wear a condom, completely unaware that a condom can prevent contraction of many sexually transmitted diseases which can lead to a number of health problems, including infertility.
STD and STI education is definitely lacking. Not only is it not stressed enough how dangerous they can be, but the importance of screening is not emphasized enough, considering I do not know any sexually active teenagers who have been screened for diseases before having sex with their partner, which could potentially prevent contraction of a disease. However the process of detecting an STD or STI isn’t actually taught to us, so the thought of it can seem incredibly daunting, when in reality the tests are often as simple as a urine sample. But the lack of education means many young people are too afraid to be tested intially and this can cause infections to worsen and cause long term health problems. Although of course sometimes no matter how many measures are taken, whether you’ve been tested, used protection and everything else possible, some are still unfortunate enough to have caught an infection through sex. But then what? We’re told to head to our GP for treatment. But what does treatment involve? In my experience with sex education at school we were told that minor STDs and STIs such as chlamydia are treated with anti-biotics, however the more serious diseases are often brushed past, such as Hepatitis, which can lead to death, but can be easily prevented with a vaccination. If we were taught this then it is more likely that young adults would know how to prevent disease, and how the course of treatment would occur if they did contract something.
However one of the things that irritates me most about the sex education we recieve in school is that there is simply no education for the LGBT+ community. As a gay female, I can safely say that I was never taught in school what constitutes safe sex with another woman, which leaves me, and others gay or bisexual individuals at a higher risk of contracting an STD or STI. If 1 in 10 individuals are LGBT+, then surely we have just as much right to decent education as any heterosexual person. Surely I can’t be the only person who has critised the lack of education for sexual minorities, however I’m sure this is often met with ‘children aren’t mature enough to be learning about such things and it won’t be taken seriously’. Children being children, I do understand that there is a level of immaturity at the pre teen age, and this is certainly a topic that needs to be taken seriously. However if this is really that big of an issue then surely teenagers can be taught about this in the later years of school? Then if the students are still intolerant of the idea of same sex relationships then it raises the question of whether the school’s homophobia policy is effective, if existant at all. If not, then this clearly needs attention so that the school’s LGBT+ community can actually feel safe, and so sex education can be carried out effectively.
Whether you hated enduring sex education or not, its essential for absolutely everyone to preserve our health and ensure happy sexual relationships. Therefore it needs to be taught properly.