I’ve attended more community fora than I can count. Invariably, someone – I’m not pointing fingers, but it’s usually an older gentleman – will stand up and say something to the effect of:
“We have to focus on the boys, too! We tell the girls to keep their legs closed, but the boys are still putting pressure on them!”
(And invariably, the faces of the women in the room say, “I am glad I am not your wife!”)
So, to this particular brand of speaker:
- Both boys and girls have sexual desire. Science and almost any woman you know can confirm that for you if you have questions. And, from a health education perspective, pretending young people don’t have sexual desire is about as wise as pretending french fries don’t taste good.
- Boys do play a role, but “keep it in your pants” isn’t a productive message. Boys need to know how to communicate, handle peer pressure and media messages, form relationships, prevent a pregnancy, put on a condom, and talk to their doctors, parents, and partners – the same things girls need to know. In fact, the only bit of sexuality education that might apply less to boys is whether to choose a pad or a tampon.
- Keeping one’s legs closed isn’t a particularly helpful life skill. The following are helpful skills that are a) proven to help prevent pregnancy and/or STDs; and b) taught in good sex ed:
- How to talk to a partner about sexual activity no matter what the relationship history is like: “I’m not ready for sex.” “I only want to have sex if we’ve both been tested.” “I know we tried that once, but I really didn’t like it.” “I would like to try something.” These are skills that matter at age 16 and age 96.
- How to ask questions of a parent, a doctor, or a pharmacist.
- How to choose, access, and use a contraceptive when you’re not financially, physically, or emotionally prepared to have a baby.
- How to be a good partner and choose a good partner. Healthy and safe relationships matter!
One more note to these speakers: We need your help! You seem to care about the health of young people in your community. Helping young people grow up to be solid, healthy adults is a community task. Here’s what we need from you:
- Check out what works in preventing teen pregnancy. Your community should be investing in proven strategies, not antiquated touchy-feely programs based on somebody’s best guess of what might work.
- Make sure your schools are implementing comprehensive sex ed. Even if you’re an abstinence-only type, remember that comprehensive sex ed promotes abstinence better than abstinence-only sex ed.
- Encourage the people in your life are talking about sex with the young people in their lives. Old-school silence is part of what gave us those really high old-school teen pregnancy rates.
Thanks, and see you at our next community meeting!