There’s a lot on my plate right now.
Applying for college, my acting, trying to still have a social life, navigating the ins and outs of relationships, and maybe getting more than a few hours of sleep in between it all, it adds up! I think most of us in high school, and especially their junior and senior years can relate. Between school, parents, TV shows, and friends, there’s a lot of stuff to digest about relationships and sex.
A lot of young people (myself included for a little while!) feel like we don’t know what the best information is or where to get it from. I get it, it’s confusing, uncomfortable, and is DEFINITELY not something you want to chat with your parents about…yikes.
But I’m going to talk to you about sex. Yep, me. When I think about my personal experiences learning about sex, I guess I was lucky. In addition to a very uncomfortable conversation my parents had with me while I hid my head under a pillow, I was taught in school that the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) is through abstinence — not having any sex at all.
But I was also taught how to protect myself if and when I decided to have sex: condom demonstrations, learning about birth control, STI information, and an uncomfortably frank play-by-play from my biology teacher (again, YIKES!). My school never denied the fact that we’re a generation of curious, bold, and brave individuals who are constantly discovering themselves, and sexuality is a huge part of that.
Other teens my age aren’t as lucky.
Teens in 26 states aren’t required to receive any sex ed at all, and in 37 states, the information taught doesn’t even have to be accurate. One curriculum used often shames us, saying that young people who have sex are like a used toothbrush or a chewed-up piece of gum, and 18 states require teaching that sex is only appropriate in marriage. That might sound ok, and I get that! But educating teens about abstinence doesn’t stop us from having sex. Instead, it makes it more dangerous. When abstinence-only sex ed is taught, we just don’t have enough information.
That’s why I’m partnering with Trojan condoms and Advocates for Youth to make sure that people my age are taught the right information about sex, without shame. Because kids across the country are taught that having sex makes them like a chewed piece of gum, cup filled with spit, or used piece of tape, our campaign is called “You Are Not Chewed Gum.” I’m certain of it: information is the best protection, and that’s a message that rings loud against abstinence-only education.
We’re much more mature than adults give us credit for. And if we’re fully educated on things, we can be smart about them. So how about we give kids information about safe sex, accept that there is no moral and effective way of preventing them from having sex and accept that, like adults, some will mess it up, but that’s the best we can do. So do some research to find out which kind sex ed your state requires. Ask questions and get answers. Get involved if this issue matters to you.
You matter. Your voice matters. And, so does your sexual health!
Interested in hearing more from Josh? Read more of his self-written work here.