Stay (Sex) Positive
By Kamaria Woods, 16
Does your school teach a sexuality education course? How many students take the course seriously? What would it be like if you had a great sex ed class that taught you everything you need to know, and students took the class seriously?
At my school, students have to take health class the first semester of their freshman year. Health class covers nutrition, anatomy and sex education. Because both of my parents are doctors and my mom also works as a nutritionist, I had learned a lot of the nutrition and general health information that the health class covered. When we got to the sex ed unit, though, a lot of the information was new to me. My small, private grade school didn’t have a sex ed course. Sex ed wasn’t ever mentioned.
Coming into high school, I figured that health class was about…well, health! My definition of being “healthy” was eating a diverse group of organic, homemade foods, exercising, getting enough sunlight and doing what I love. The bulk of that definition came from my mom’s lectures about how a person’s eating habits can greatly affect his or her entire life. Either way, my definition of “health”—a very general term—was lacking. I’d never really thought about including sexual health into the definition.
In our health classes’ sex ed unit, I remember my teacher covering sexual anatomy, the portrayal of sex in the media (how “sex sells”), risks and consequences of unsafe sex (sexually transmitted diseases or infections, unintended pregnancies, etc), and ways of putting yourself at a lower risk of those consequences (like staying abstinent or using contraceptives). These are all important to learn about, but my class didn’t take the unit seriously at all.
For the most part, the sex ed currently taught in schools is sex-negative; my teacher portrayed sex and sexuality as a bad thing and used fear of consequences to push students to stay abstinent. As a result, a lot of students didn’t fully understand the risks and weren’t motivated to stay sexually healthy by the time the course ended. I heard many students in my class complaining that the bulk of the curriculum was common sense and they didn’t need to learn about it in school. It’s true—a lot of the information we’re taught is common sense—but that doesn’t mean we already understand how important it is to our health. Sex ed isn’t a class we should suffer through or ignore. The lessons taught are vital to improving and maintaining our health, so students should take the class seriously. In turn, teachers should present the course completely and accurately.
There’s an opportunity to have comprehensive sexuality education required for students in Chicago Public Schools. If passed, Illinois House Bill 3027, a sex-positive bill encouraging comprehensive sex education, will provide Chicago Public Schools with medically accurate sex education for grades 6 through12. The curriculum will be complete, meaning students will get full lessons that don’t leave anything out. The classes will also be age appropriate, considering many topics taught to grade 12 are not appropriate for sixth graders. HB 3027 will ensure that sex ed lessons in schools are sex-positive, and will stress the importance of sexual health. Sex-positivity will shed a whole new light on sex ed courses and hopefully encourage more students to take initiative in improving their own health. Let’s get HB 3027 passed!