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I am about to write the most forbidden word you could see on a page. Ready? Sex. The three letter word carries the weight of the world. This three letter word with its stigma, negative connotation, and pure disgust can be directly connected to another three letter word. God. It is the 21st century in Petal, Mississippi.
I am a high school senior and I learned about sex through preachers threatening an eternal damnation to a firey place, called hell. My first sex talk was at a retreat in the seventh grade where we learned nothing of the scientific aspect of sex but instead the fear of God’s hatred for those who commit adultery. On this retreat, adultery was not confined to one spouse cheating on another with an outside person. Adultery was described as cheating on your future husband or wife by engaging in premarital sex. All the while I was learning new things about God and sins and “ sex,” I realized two faces were missing from the bench surrounding the camp fire. Later, those same two faces were seen loading their duffle bags in separate cars going home early from camp.
Come to find out, they took the retreat to a different level and got a “ hands-on” experience. Sex is a topic that has been strategically danced around for years. The explicit effects of lack of sexual education in the school district have left a lasting impact on the state of Mississippi and the entire nation. The Centers for Disease Control and prevention announced that less than half of high schools and fewer than one in five middle schools has sufficient sex ed. “ Sufficient sexual education” is described by meeting all the key topics of “ the talk” for every individual student. The only way to cater specifically to each student while teaching an entire group is scientific facts.
The ignorance of uninformed teenagers has detrimental effects. Over 90% of parents of teenagers support sexual education at school according to Planned Parenthood. This is just one more dumbfounding fact that begs the question, “ why aren’t schools teaching it?” The sex talk is not a topic of scandal and taboo, it is a preventative measure that must be taken in order to maintain the health of our nation’s youth. In a study from the Mississippi Department of Health, 53% of high school students said that they first had sex from the grades of ninth to twelfth. The problem does not lie with the amount of people having sex during their high school years, the problem is and always will be, the people having sex during their high school years that have little to no knowledge about how to be safe, physically and emotionally.
I can honestly say that sex was taught in my high school for a one hour seminar. The speaker preached abstinence. “ The only way to not get pregnant or an STD is to not do it until marriage,” he said over and over. To a group of high school students growing up in the era that is infiltrated with sex, the concept of abstinence should not be the only information a student obtains about sex from a public school. Not every student believes in the Christian God, leaving a large amount of students right where they started. Mississippi undoubtedly has the highest rate of teen pregnancies in the entire nation.
Obviously, the sex talk about waiting until marriage doesn’t do it for more than half of the student population, including the preacher’s kid. On the website for the Mississippi Department of Health, there are statistics indicating that something desperately needs to change in this state. The most liked and strongest plan the leaders of the state have come up with is to teach abstinence in every public school in the state more often. I agree there is a need for sexual education to be taught more regularly but abstinence is not sexual education. That is where the line needs to be established.
Abstinence is for the church. Sexual education is for the schools. In another study by the Department of Health in Mississippi, it says that only 39% of high school students report using a condom the first time they had sex. This is an appalling number because condoms are so accessible to the general public. Students need to be taught how to take specific preventative measures considering so many students are going to forfeit the abstinence plan so carefully ingrained in their minds.
Women must be taught the health benefits and dangers associated with birth control and men need to hear the importance of protecting a woman’s body. Other than just doing what must be done to prevent pregnancy, students must be made aware of the hidden secret that one in four Americans keep. STDs are so common within the American population that there is no more denying the existence. Mississippi had the highest rates of both chlamydia and gonorrhea in the nation in 2013. More than half the cases of both diseases were among adolescents and young adults 15-24 years old.
That 53% of high school students that decided to have sex should get tested regularly at the local health department. Abstinence teachings make the spreading of STDs much easier because students are so shameful of having sex before marriage that they refuse to get tested, therefore spreading the disease to their partner as early as at the age 15. In the Bible Belt, it is normal to be too private about sex. It is normal to teach abstinence; limiting the questions that can be asked by students to the speaker. Unfortunately the methods Mississippi has adopted have won us the trophy for highest pregnancy and STD rate in the nation.
Something must change and I know how simple it can be. Sexual Education needs to be taught regularly in order to keep up with the changing bodies and minds of teenagers. All questions asked need to be answered directly and without the teacher turning red in the face or saying, “ that is a good question for your parents,” simply because it makes him/her uncomfortable. There needs to be a more open policy about sex within the schools. The more openly talked about a topic is, the more information obtained, the less ignorance, pregnancies, and spreading of STDs. Mississippi needs to break out of its backwards chains for this one topic because the health and stability of my generation and every generation below me is continent on sufficient sexual education.