Let’s talk about sex

Seventh grade.

My classmates and I sat in a small yellow-walled classroom at our school in California, leaning over our desks to giggle and chatter inquisitively among each other as the teacher escorted the girls out of the room.

He turned around to face us, closing the door behind him.

“Gentlemen,” he said, holding up a small chain of individually wrapped squares. “This is a condom.”

The moral feud over sexual-education in schools has battled on for decades: one side arguing in favor of its inclusion in seventh and eighth grade curricula in order to help teenagers make safe and informed decisions regarding sex, the other opposing it for fear of exposing their children to the “s-word” at such a young age.

Given our state’s religious and conservative heritage, it comes to little surprise that the Arizona Board of Education does not require sex education to be taught in schools; instead it only mandates that abstinence be stressed when it is.

However, this “just say no” mentality has certainly not proved effective in dissuading middle- and high-school students from having sex.

Arizona ranks second highest in teen-pregnancy rates for girls age 15 to 19, according to a September 2006 report by the Guttmacher Institute.

“I never received any formal sex education,” linguistics senior Lauren Edmonson said in an e-mail.

“I was only exposed to abstinence-only education and took a vow of chastity when I was 13 years old,” she said.

Edmonson attended a private Catholic elementary school and started high school at a private Catholic school as well.

“This education proved to be very unhelpful as I matured,” she said. “I received my most vital information through Planned Parenthood’s comprehensive Web site.”

Edmonson is a former secretary and co-facilitator of the ASU Womyn’s Coalition, a campus organization that aims to educate students about safe sex practices, birth control methods and overall sexual wellness, but is currently an inactive member.

The Womyn’s Coalition also aims to promote equality on campus and in the local community and, last month, held a “Sex on the Beach,” event on Palo Verde Beach where free condoms and information regarding safe sex practice were made available to college students.

But Lauren said by college, it is far too late.

“Comprehensive sex education should be offered at many levels of education beginning in junior high, when many young teens begin sexually experimenting,” she said.

“If I had received more comprehensive and all-inclusive education from the beginning, I would have been more prepared as a young adult.”

The topic of sex, while understandably one of due sensitivity, is not the taboo it used to be.

Be it from the media or schoolyard peers, it is an impossible feat to attempt to shelter a child from the adult world forever in modern society.

But if we get can get to them first, in all their jubilant hormone-fueled curiosity, and teach them about safe sex and contraceptives, we can better prepare them to make mature and informed decisions.

Hal still thinks that girls have cooties. Send him your thoughts at hscohen@asu.edu

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