My name is Sherilyn and I was one of the lucky ones. I was blessed with a progressive mother and grandmother who were comfortable giving me information on sex. Any question I had on the subject they answered truthfully and honestly. If it were not for them, I would have had to rely on the (mis)information that was taught in my school district.
I received sex education (If you can call it that) from Forest Circle Middle School and Colleton County High School in the small town of Walterboro SC. My middle school sex education focused on abstinence and the importance of virginity. At times, I felt uncomfortable with the phrases the instructor was using. At one point of his lesson, he compared people who had lost their virginity to used tooth brushes. He told the class that “nobody wants to marry someone who has had sex with somebody else, just like how people do not want to use toothbrushes somebody else has used.”
Even as a sixth grader I knew the things he was saying were problematic! In my seat I remember wondering what that meant for people who were sexually abused. Were they dirty like used toothbrushes? What did that mean for people who chose to lose their virginity before marriage? Were they not as desirable or important as virgins?
My high school sex education experience was similar to my middle school experience in that the same pro-abstinence rhetoric was spewed. I will never forget the time when during the lesson, the instructor began talking about the importance of virginity. As she spoke of how choosing to lose virginity before marriage was one of the worst decisions someone could make, my friend who was sitting to my left in the class began weeping. She had lost her virginity months earlier to her boyfriend. After the class, she told me she felt like less of a person after hearing the instructor’s views on virginity. All I can think about after class was how unfortunate this girl had to spend the rest of her school day after being indirectly shamed by the sex ed instructor. I am sure having to endure that was not conducive to her learning.
There were some differences between my middle school and high school sex education experience. My high school did not only focus on preaching abstinence to students, but they tried to frighten students out of having sex. The instructor showed PowerPoint Presentations full of pictures of genitals that had been infected with STD’s and STI’s in an attempt to scare students out of having sex. Rather than instilling knowledge on sex, they tried to instill a fear of it.
After learning about disease and virginity, in separate rooms, males and females were instructed to write a list of the qualities they desire in a partner. After this, the instructors of both the males and females traded papers and read off the desired traits. I remember one guy comically listed “must be able to do my taxes” but the others emphasized that they wanted their partner to be a virgin. This is not surprising after being taught that the worth of someone who had not had sex was greater than someone who has.
I could not understand why they thought it was important for us to know what the opposite sex desired. It was their way of giving us one more standard to abide by. The instructors reinforced the idea that it is important to base major life decisions off of the opinions of others. This was a harmful exercise because teenagers are already too concerned with how they are perceived by their peers. I would consider my high school aged self pretty independent. So whenever we did this exercise, I was immediately thrown off. I honestly did not care what boys thought was desirable. I went to school to learn information and skills to use to progress throughout my life.
Being taught that it was important to adhere to the likes of the opposite sex was the last thing I expected or wanted to learn during my sex education. I was looking forward to gaining an extensive knowledge on all of the available forms of birth control and learning how to put on a condom. But I learned neither of those things from my sex education in school. I am lucky to have adults in my life who know how important it is to provide accurate and honest information. There are many parents here in South Carolina who do not talk about sex with their children though. These are the kids who are at an extreme disadvantage. Without an accurate sex education from their parents, they are forced to rely on a sex education that according to South Carolina State Law, does not have to be medically accurate.
It is time for politics to be set aside and for there to be sexual education reformation in South Carolina. We cannot continue to deny South Carolina students from receiving a comprehensive and medically accurate sex education. Our state is ranked among the top ten states in the US for highest rates of Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and AIDS according to the Center for Disease Control’s 2014 Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance. It is a fact that students who are presented facts are more prepared to make responsible decisions concerning sex, shy don’t start giving them the facts?