Sex Shouldn’t be Taboo

Sofia Cannon, Health & Relationships Editor

Sexual and reproductive education should be an essential part to every ciriculum and yet the education system is severly lacking. In countries all over the world, talking openly about the topic of sex is taboo. This can make it dificult to access information and services about sexual and reproductive health, especially in places where religious or cultural beliefs restrict access to contraception or abortion. Overall, keeping adolescents informed is critical in keeping them safe so that they can make informed decisions. 

Over the years people have contended that sex education must be more than just the biology of puberty and reproduction, and must look at the real life circumstances too – ie relationships. The Sex Education Forum (SEF) and others on board have called for mandatory sex and relationship education (SER) to be taught to children and young adults. It is important to teach it in a manner that is interesting and yet not a laughing matter. Lucy Emmerson, a writer and Coordinator of the Sex Education Forum said “the word “sex” seems to be a problem, but it shouldn’t be. Sexuality is an intrinsic part of being human and sexual development is a normal part of growing up”. She expresses how essential it is to first normalize sex so that children feel comfortable to not only learn but ask questions. Half (50 percent) of all teens feel uncomfortable talking with their parents about sex compared to just 19 percent of parents who feel uncomfortable talking with their teens, according to the survey conducted by Planned Parenthood. This is the first to show that parents are much more at ease than their teens when it comes to discussing sex than teens coming to their parents. On the other hand, many parents don’t feel comfortable, and if teens are against it, it falls into the hands of the education system to educate children. The relevance to their lives is extreme because 41% of high school students reported having sexual intercourse according to Resource Center for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (ReCAPP). If these teens aren’t prepared then their decisions can lead to life-altering events. 

For many years, sexual education in the United States has been shaped by moral and religious forces. Abstinence-only education was taught and considered the preeminent and safest option. It is, indeed, one option, but only teaching this to adolescents has the potential to increase problems and risk of engaging in sex without preparation. The abstinence-only education was embedded in the approach that electing not to be sexual outside of a monogomous, adult relationship was the optimal protection from exposure to sexually-transmitted infections and/or an unplanned pregnancy. Along with the health concerns, came the concept of “purity”, and the belief that waiting was a morally-based better and desired choice. This purity movement inspired the view that our sexual urges are evil. The movement also focused copiously on female sexuality. This shame was described by Dr. Noel Clark from Seattle Pacific University as “a visceral feeling of humiliation and disgust toward one’s own body and identity as a sexual being, and a belief of being abnormal, inferior, and unworthy”. This terrible feeling that devours many girls and women across the globe is often brought through the black and white confinements religion implements. 

People can, however, overcome sexual shame, and a huge part of this comes from strenthening our sexual and reproductive education system. Adolescents can learn that this talk is not only normal but simply essential. Students may not feel comfortable with reaching out to parents so it falls into the hands of schools to make sure children are aware that sex is okay, and along with that know the resources and precautions they need to take to be safe. We as a society can help others with sexual shame by not rejecting others, but instead knowing that everyone has the personal choice of who and how they want to be sexual, and embrace the criticalness to act from a place of information not ignorance. Sexual education has the possibility to empower people through the teaching of the range of human sexuality, sexual diversity, and how religion has a different grapple with sexuality in the world.  It is important for people to accept their sexuality as an aspect of themselves to heal from sexual shame. Educating can enable people to make their own decisions around how to unite their sexual selves with their spiritual selves. Once that is introduced, individuals can assess their sexuality from a stance that supports their own health.