Valuable Resource

Nov 15, 2017

To the Editor:

I am writing to commend Pinelands Regional School District for having a publication like Sex, etc. available to students in its media center. I graduated from Pinelands in 2012. Reading about this controversy led me to talk to some of my peers about the sex education we received during our time at Pinelands.

Most of what we remembered seems like pretty standard sex ed: what condoms were, how to put them on, the effectiveness rates of different types of contraception. We also remembered what were definite efforts by the school to persuade us against having sex. These included graphic images of extreme cases of various sexually transmitted diseases, a very memorable video of a woman giving birth, and a project in which we were given an egg baby to carry around for a week.

And of course, there was the explicit abstinence education. One peer remembered an educator making a comparison to chewing gum; just as you wouldn’t accept gum someone else had chewed, you wouldn’t want to be with someone on your wedding night who had already had sex. Another remembered getting stickers that read “you’re worth waiting for.”

Never once did I feel like the school was telling me to “embrace early sexual activity.” Sex, for most of my teenage years, felt very alien to me. I didn’t know what it actually was, and the information I was given didn’t really answer all the questions I had. Sex education had left me primarily with the feeling that I shouldn’t have sex and if I was going to, the most important thing was that I had a condom.

The parents concerned about the Sex, etc. magazine seem to believe that their children are completely oblivious to sex, but I can’t imagine that middle-schoolers today are much different than middle-schoolers 10 years ago. Much like seventh-grade me, most of them probably have a vague conception of sex, but few answers about what it actually entails. This is why a resource like Sex, etc. is so valuable; it addresses the questions that teens have about sex honestly.

I would like to especially address Mr. and Mrs. Cardillo’s (“Sex, etc. Challenged,” 10/25) and Michael Dellaperute’s (“Better Off Without It,” 11/8) concerns about the Sex, etc. articles covering anal and oral sex. Although Mr. and Mrs. Cardillo seem to dismiss homosexuality and non-heterosexual orientations as “cultural trends,” the reality is that there are students who are not straight. These students are going to be looking for, and deserve access to, information about safe sex that is not penis-in-vagina sex.

While I remember “dental dam” condoms being mentioned in my sex ed classes, oral and anal sex were not really covered. This was a definite gap in the sex education I received, and I am excited to see Pinelands providing resources like Sex, etc. that help make the school’s health education more LGBTQ+ inclusive.  

Abstinence is the only guaranteed way to prevent pregnancy and the contraction of sexually transmitted diseases. However, it’s also been proven that abstinence-only sex education does not work. A study by the Guttmacher Institute, a sexual health research organization, shows that abstinence-only sex education programs failed to reduce rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. A study by the Sexual Information and Education Council of the United States found that students who received a comprehensive sex education were at a 50 percent lower risk for pregnancy than those who received an abstinence-only education.

Obviously, no one should be pressuring teens to have sex. However, there are students who are going to experiment. These students should not be ashamed of their interest in exploring their sexuality. Shaming students over sex, and cutting off the conversation about it, only leads to teens getting into sexual situations without a realistic idea of what sex actually is. Kudos to Pinelands for providing resources that open up space for an honest dialogue about sex.

Olivia Errico





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