Comprehensive Sex Ed for the Comprehensively Celibate


As someone who was all but completely celibate throughout high school and this was not at all by conscious choice,
I can tell you that I often found it frustrating to deal with the fact
that a lot of teenagers were under- or mis-informed about safer sex,
that a lot of teenagers were sexually active, and that a lot of
politicians and think tanks believed in stanching teenage sexual
activity entirely. I was fourteen when I started listening to Loveline
(though I didn’t always agree with Dr. Drew) and it began my path of
sex-pertise (as it were). I was eager to get informed. I discovered
Scarleteen in my junior year of high school and happily perused the
site, but at the same time, I’d wonder:

Why am I getting informed about something that’s relevant to everyone else but not to me?

After all, a little less than half of 15-19 year olds have had sex at least once. But if you’re not among those getting laid…nothing you read here can be relevant to you, right? Wrong.

In my case, my state of celibacy came with a bunch of unhealthy
thoughts – what’s the matter with me? Am I in a special class of social
pariahs? I must be the only one who’s more than willing to have sex but
still not having it. I mean, throw in the fact that I’m a girl and that
gender stereotypes abound, and that it’s boys who have the monopoly on
sexual desire and my gender was supposed to be the jealously guarded
keeper of the keys. Here I was breaking that stereotype, and was it not
any boy’s dream come true? So why weren’t they lining up to get with
me? I was especially unattractive. QED.

You might already see something wrong with that line of thought. If not, I’ll spell it out.
You’re not unattractive. You’re not the only one who’d love to be
hooking up with someone but you’re not. And it’s not – I repeat, not -
the case that heterosexual girls should automatically have a bevy of
potential hookups and if they don’t, that something’s wrong with them.

This bears repeating. Being sexually active isn’t necessarily a mark
of being sexually desirable, and nor is being up for hooking up, but
potential lovers don’t seem or aren’t interested, a mark of being
sexually undesirable. Besides, chances are, you won’t be
celibate for the rest of your life. And whether you engage in partnered
sex at age 16 or 25 or 60 or heck, never, you’ll need to know how to be
safe about it.

Not being sexually active does not exclude you from comprehensive sex education.
(Know too, that there’s more to sexuality than just what you do with
others. There’s masturbation, values, body image, relationships both
romantic and non-romantic.)

This is why I’m not a fan of the line, "Don’t have sex but if you must, then know how to use a condom." I realize that it’s a logical fallacy
but it still feels like there’s an implication that if you’re not
sexually active, then all information is moot, as if the phrase
excludes teens who aren’t sexually active. I’d like to see that phrase
changed to, "Whether you do or don’t have sex and whether you start now
or later or never, you should not be ignorant about safer sex. This
information is crucial no matter what."

I actually believed in abstinence until marriage for a while. But
even then – especially then, because my beliefs were intrinsic, and
appeals to consequences made it seem like waiting wasn’t good simply
for its own sake – it rubbed me the wrong way when teachers said,
"Don’t have sex because that can lead to pregnancy." I mean, let’s do a
thought experiment where some form of birth control (not abstinence)
exists that’s 100% effective against both pregnancy and any and all
STIs to boot. All bets are off then? All reasons to wait for sex are
completely obviated? No? So there are more compelling reasons to wait
to have sex than pregnancy or STIs? Then why the fear that learning
about safer sex will lead to action? Knowing does not mean doing.
Besides, I find that fear is a poor basis for sexual choices all around.

And this brings us full circle. Do not buy into stereotypes. You are
not some sort of freak if you haven’t slept with someone yet, and you
cannot assume that you’ll be abstinent forever. Most importantly of
all, honest, accurate, unvarnished sexual education does not exclude
you.
Abstinence does not mean ignorance.

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  • grayduck

    I think this article broached an important problem with sex education but did nothing to refute it. Subjects like mathematics, reading, writing, and science are needed by virtually everyone. Information on how to use a condom is not needed by everyone.

     

    http://www.abortiondiscussion.com

  • heather-corinna

    And yet, the young people who that education is actually for usually disagree with that sentiment AND no one has to choose between getting education in those other areas and getting sex education. 

    What’s you’re saying is even more moot when a young person is talking about education they are getting and seeking out on their own time, outside of school altogether (which, for the record, also tends to often involve some or all of those skills).

    When young people themselves speak about what they want and feel they need in services that are supposed to be for them, I’d advise trying to hear them and value what they are saying.  Adults lead and monopolize these conversations far too often, so when you have a chance to hear young people speak about it, why not listen?

  • grayduck

    Heather Corinna, Scarleteen.com on November 4, 2009 – 2:52pm: "…the young people who that education is actually for usually disagree with that sentiment…"

     

    Can you provide credible evidence to support that claim?

     

    "…no one has to choose between getting education in those other areas and getting sex education."

     

    No, but teaching sex education in a public school diverts students from learning other subjects for a period of time.

     

    http://www.abortiondiscussion.com

  • heather-corinna

    No, but teaching sex education in a public school diverts students from learning other subjects for a period of time.

     

    So do all kinds of additional programming: assemblies for sports events, physical education, home economics classes, arts classes: many additional classes, events and the lot are time away from those other subjects.

     Can you provide credible evidence to support that claim? 

     

    Sure.  First of all, for almost eleven years now, I have listened to young people talk about sex education, in a volume few other people have.  For that same period of time, millions of young people have come to Scarleteen looking for sex education of their own accord: we have never done any advertising at all, so the mere fact that they seek us out and find us for the kind of information and education we provide in such numbers tells me plenty.  Much in the same way that a dermatologist who has been practicing for as long could tell you plenty about how people feel about their skin, I can tell you, with credibility given my tenure, that Kripa’s sentiments are reflective of what many young people say.

     

    Because educating young people on sexuality is my primary job, and my educational philosophy has been student-directed for almost 20 years,  I also read studies and articles on their wants in sex ed when they appear. You could also do that same research yourself if you’re really this interested: it’s not like I have some secret in, I just do the homework and pay attention. You could start with pieces like this, this, this, this… again, if you looked, you’d find surverys and pieces like this easily.

     

    Or, again, you could choose to simply listen to their words when they state them and give them credence, as with Kripa’s here.

     

    (And since I know you’ll ask, I make those little rectangles by selecting the test and clicking on the icon with the right-pointing arrow and the black bars to the right of it.)

  • grayduck

    Heather Corinna, Scarleteen.com on November 6, 2009 – 1:28pm: "Heather Corinna, Scarleteen.com on November 6, 2009 – 1:28pm: "So do all kinds of additional programming: assemblies for sports events, physical education, home economics classes, arts classes: many additional classes, events and the lot are time away from those other subjects."

     

    That point does not mitigate the relevance or significance of my observation.

     

    "…I can tell you, with credibility given my tenure, that Kripa’s sentiments are reflective of what many young people say."

     

    Assuming here that "Kripa" is the author, "many young people" is not equivalent to most of "the young people who that education is actually for."

     

    "You could start with pieces like this, this, this, this…"

     

    I saw nothing in those links that supports your claim. Some of surveys even contradict your claim. For example, one of the most popular questions about sexuality education in a survey of teenagers was "Why do so many girls get pregnant when there is plenty of birth control information available?" Also, note the following sentence. "The research concludes that rather than the basic do’s and don’ts of so called ‘sexual mechanics’, what today’s teenagers are desperate for is advice on the complexities surrounding sexual intimacy, negotiating consent, handling peer pressure and the potential for violence." That result does not seem inconsistent with my statement. ("Information on how to use a condom is not needed by everyone.")

     

    (I actually learned about the blockquote from another source just before your explanation, but thank you for that.)

     

    http://www.abortiondiscussion.com

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