By Peter Jenkins
Editor’s Note: For Dig’s Sex Issue, we sought to provide an entertaining and useful resource to enhance the understanding of physical intimacy amongst our readership. But sometimes what you need to hear is not entertaining. Please be advised that, among other topics, rape is discussed in this opinion piece. If you or someone you know has been sexually victimized, please call Sexual Trauma Awareness & Response at 225.383.7273.
Abstinence is the best form of contraception. Well, that’s what many groups, like the Louisiana Family Forum, say we should be teaching our children. More specifically, they say that we should teach young adults only about abstinence. It seems almost unnecessary to say, but abstinence only is a patent failure of a policy, and we all know it – but not for the reasons you may be thinking about.
By age 18, twenty five percent of girls and seventeen percent of boys will have been sexually assaulted (Anderson, M. J. (2010). Sex Education and Rape. Michigan Journal Of Gender & Law, 17(1), 83-110). But these individuals and their pet groups don’t even want to help these kids understand the concept of consent. So many of these individuals don’t even know that what happened to them was rape because no one has ever taught them what rape is.
For those of us who look at the problem of rape we understand that the absence of a ‘yes’ is rape. We understand that even if you’re in the throws of passion that you still have a right to end that sexual encounter and that it should immediately end because your consent has been withdrawn. We understand that consent one day is not everlasting consent for sex. The question is why don’t the extremists want our kids to be able to understand the distinction between rape and consensual sex?
Do they think if they say abstinence enough that kids will suddenly stop being raped? Well, maybe I’m too jaded but I think it’s a complete failure of our school system when it perpetuates rape culture through ignorance.
Of course rape isn’t the only issue our children are dealing with. Teenage pregnancy and STI rates in Louisiana are among the worst in the nation. Baton Rouge and New Orleans are playing hot potato for which one has the highest rates of AIDS in the U.S. and these are just some of the issues facing our state.
If you did not know it, teenagers have sex and they have sex often. We have been teaching abstinence only for decades and it has yet to work. When will we admit that sweeping the issue under the rug for decades has put the teens and young adults in our state in harm’s way?
These problems become even more cogent in the college atmosphere where sexual assault is rampant among young adults who never learned about sex during their K-12 years and now have little to no supervision in college. It may not be popular to say but fraternities with their “boys will be boys” mentality, absolutely contribute to a culture of supporting, excusing, and ignoring rape.
This rape culture is a big part of why 97 out of 100 rapists will never spend a day in prison for their crime. Yet, our legislators have yet to institute comprehensive sex education, which has mounting evidence showing that it helps prevent rape.
Our Louisiana legislators need to pass comprehensive sex education reform that teachers our children age appropriate topics about sexual health.
Our teens need to learn how to use contraception. They need to learn how birth control works. They need to learn what consent is and how to respect it. They need to learn not just about heterosexual sex but homosexual sex as well. They need to know about options such as Plan B. And yes, our teens deserve to know about abortion and they deserve medically accurate information regarding the safety of this healthcare option. Our teens deserve to be given all the tools they need to make the right choice for themselves in these situations. People who don’t know how to do something typically aren’t going to do it well, but they’ll give it a try anyway of they’re desperate. Let’s do better by our state and our families, and pass comprehensive and inclusive sex education for our teens.