FYI: This post is for EVERYBODY…not people of a particular religious affiliation, worldview, etc…
The title is a quote from an editorial by Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker. Her May 3rd article Prude or prudent? The debate over access to Plan B ran in our local paper as Plan B is for women, not young girls on May 5th. As a public high school health educator [granted, I'm on leave, but I still care deeply about it!], I am keenly interested in debates like those surrounding age limits on Plan B aka the “morning after pill.”
While I’m not getting into the debate about whether or not it should be available to girls as young as 15 (which it is now legal according to this article), what I do want to touch on is something that Ms. Parker gets at near the end of her column. Hence the title of my blog post…
What does it say about our culture that we discourage family communication about something as important as sex?
One of the most important parts of my health class was encouraging my students to talk about sex with a trusted family member or adult family friend. Not to divulge everything they’ve ever done, what they want to do, etc but to gain a more well-rounded perspective on all of the ins and outs – physically, emotionally, mentally, relationally, spiritually – of sexual activity. When I read that they’re lowering the age for getting Plan B without a prescription and without parental consent, it breaks my heart because we are essentially removing any encouragement for kids, yes, KIDS, to talk to their elders about sex.
You may know that I am a scientist by training. So why am I not advocating for Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards’ viewpoint, insisting that since the pill has been deemed safe, age barriers should be dropped? In my 5 years as a sexual health educator for Seattle Public Schools, if I learned one thing it was this: quality sexual interactions, regardless of your thoughts about age, relationship stability, etc for those involved, come down to communication. By having Plan B available to GIRLS as young as 15, we remove the need for conversation and let them make decisions all on their own. You might counter me by pointing out that they will probably talk to their sexual partner about it. I’m guessing not, however, if one of the tabs on the FAQ page on Plan B’s website is, “How can I talk to my partner about taking Plan B One-Step®?” Usually if there’s a how-to, it’s a difficult task or it’s not happening.
Here’s the deal: we need to encourage conversations about sex with the teenagers of our society. Whether you have a teenager or not, this is vitally important to actually teaching kids something rather than scaring them into not doing something. I know not all health teachers address sex ed like I do/did but the most important thing I wanted kids to leave my class with was an emphasis on communication with their partner. Whether straight, gay, lesbian, atheist, Muslim, Christian, boy, girl, trans, sexual active, wanting to be sexually active, wanting to wait for marriage, wanting to wait for a steady partner, whatever…they left my class armed with information and practice in communicating with something as intimate as sex. Did I scare them into not having sex? No. That’s not my place. Though we did play
STD [political correction] STI Jeopardy and I did show them graphic images of body parts ravaged by unchecked infections. My job is/was to prepare them for making their own decisions while emphasizing that sexual contact OF ANY KIND has incredible consequences physically, emotionally, mentally, relationally, and spiritually.
Which brings me back to my question above. What does it say about our culture that we discourage [family] communication about something as important as sex? When we teach abstinence only education, when we don’t encourage them to talk to a trusted adult about whether or not they are ready for sexual activity, when we allow them to get Plan B over the counter…we are encouraging the further disintegration of the family in our society.
This is why I will go back to teaching. This is why I will teach public high school health again. Somebody needs to get in the trenches and help turn the tide.
In the meantime…
Want to contact me directly? I’d love to hear from you.