A different kind of sex ed

By Kate Leddy

(Randy Crandon and Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian Graphics)
(Randy Crandon and Caroline O’Connor/Daily Collegian Graphics)

For decades, according to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, the federal government has shelled out millions of dollars for abstinence-only-until-marriage sexual education programs across the United States. These programs “rarely provide information on even the most basic topics in human sexuality such as puberty, reproductive anatomy, and sexual health” and, unsurprisingly, there is no significant proof that they have ever been effective.

The concept of pushing abstinence-only programs in a culture that has largely moved beyond the idea of waiting until marriage is a reflection of our unwillingness to acknowledge the reality that many young people are having sex – a reality that often brings immense discomfort to parents, teachers and peers when openly talked about.

I had the idea to do this special issue because what better group to talk about sex with than college students? We are the group that the media loves to shine the “sex-crazed, hormonal youths running loose” spotlight on, the ones who are subject to dozens of analyses about the hookup culture we are a part of, written by people of a generation that is not experiencing it themselves.

The result is similar to those “comprehensive” sex ed classes that many of us received in school (if not the abstinence programs): it only scratches the surface of everything that sex is and can be based on an enormous variety of experiences, circumstances and perspectives.

I learned the majority of what I know about sex, sexuality and intimacy from personal experiences, trial and error, conversations with friends, and stories from individuals who have an entirely different background from my own.

Maybe we were taught about condoms or STIs by a gym teacher in eighth grade. Maybe we received awkwardly worded advice from relatives or were handed pamphlets about getting hair in places we didn’t used to have hair.

But there are certain questions sex ed classes never answer: what do you do when you find yourself being shamed for a sexual preference? How is the language we use harmful or conducive to positive conversations about intimacy? How do we navigate not only these strange and foreign experiences with bodies for the first time, but the emotional implications the can come with them as well? What about when a physical connection escalates into something of an entirely different nature – an act of violence?

Through this issue, we wanted to open a space to demonstrate the diversity of experiences and make the subject more humanized, ultimately creating our own personalized form of sexual education. The lesson? Your bodies are your own, your experiences are not going to be the same as movies, books or your friend’s stories, it is okay to talk about it (or not talk about it) and there is so much more than what meets the eye. Be safe. Be comfortable.

And remember: we, too, are only scratching the surface.