“No, not really, Dad.”
“Are they candy?”
“Well, maybe. To some people.”
My dad removed his glasses and peered closely at the image of pretty rings on my bookmark.
“Then what are they?”
“They’re condoms, Dad. You should know.”
Condoms in every imaginable color—red, green, blue, and purple—poisoned the face of my innocent bookmark. My newest acquisition had been given by a guest speaker in my health class. You see, I’m a freshman undergoing sex education in my health class and I can now proudly say that I know more about sex than my parents.
Since my school began educating me, I’ve been appalled. Is the focus of our schools’ sex education program to preach abstinence? Or are these programs looking to expand teen minds on the joys of sex?
I’ve learned so much—what each type of sex is, how you actually “do it,” what “sexual arousal” causes in teen relationships, and other stuff that I was happier off not knowing. Did I really need to be enlightened on the “four” (my mother’s eyes widened—what do you mean FOUR?) types of sex? And … did I really need to know just how to have anal sex?
Yes, I know there are students out there who are active, have already “done it” at least once or are planning on being sexually active. These teens need to be informed of the consequences and about the birth control options available to them. However, by overeducating students on birth control methods, by assuring teen “confidentiality” and by emphasizing the “wonderful sensation” of sex, they’re defying the very thing they might have set out to do: to encourage abstinence.
The guest speaker in my health class showed us disturbing photographs of numerous sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). By showing these sorts of things in graphic form, schools believe they can discourage students from having sex. That’s not far-fetched. Many teenagers do, for example, have the misconception that oral sex is safe sex. But it’s not. Though it may not lead to pregnancy, one can contract an STD through oral sex. Any contact with the genitalia can transmit STDs. This is something I learned at school, and many people—even adults, I’m told—are not aware of it. I learned that in some instances sexually transmitted diseases may even lead to death. So, yes, schools should teach students about such important things. I do strongly believe students shouldn’t cringe at the mention of “the word.”
I believe, however, that there should be a limit on just how much information schools should pass on to kids. I believe that the program at our schools has crossed that line. How much information does our health course need to share before we’re told that abstinence is the only way to avoid pregnancy and STDs? Health courses should be more clinical. They needn’t get lurid. Do teens need to know that they can choose between strawberry, vanilla, or banana-flavored dental dams if they want to have oral sex? I ask you, should flavors of sex be a choice at all at an age when the choices between Trigonometry, French, Algebra, or World History should be foremost on young minds? Should sexual activity be presented as a tantalizing, multi-protection choice for teens whose hormones are already on overdrive?
If schools want to stop teenage pregnancy, they can start by reviewing their own policies. They can review their dress code. Many high schools don’t even have a dress code, and students can wear (or should I say, not wear) whatever they please. If they do have a code, I’d like to know whether schools implement them at all.
Schools should also look at how they may be affecting parent-child relationships. Should kids be told that they can just walk into a health clinic and pick up a free condom? Should teens be told that they can get a check-up at their OB/GYN without even telling their parents—that confidentiality is not just a “given,” that it’s a “right”?
With the presentation of so many birth-control methods, sex has begun to seem like a casual matter to me. After all, taking the “shot” is “over 99 percent effective.” But the problem is, by making birth control and STD prevention so accessible and seemingly effective, teens are probably thinking that they will be safe. Even teens who never broached the idea of having sex may have second thoughts. But the reality still is that abstinence is the only safe sex.
It was quite funny when my dad couldn’t figure what was on my bookmark. But it showed me that we, the teenagers of today, just know too much. My classmates guffawed when the teacher passed out the bookmarks in class. Yet my dad just gawked at them, wondering what on earth they were.
We’ve lost our innocence. I’m sure my teenage friends will agree with me on that. But I wonder. Will my teenage friends agree with me now when I say that we certainly don’t need to lose anything else at this stage of our lives? Especially not our virginity?
Pavihra Mohan is a freshman at Saratoga High School, Calif.