As the woman behind the blog Killer and a Sweet Thang, Eileen Kelly is committed to giving young people the sexual education she never got, addressing topics like intimacy, love, health and issues we may not feel comfortable talking to adults about. Each month, she’ll be bringing her expertise here, starting with why the whole sexual education thing is something we just can’t ignore.
When and where did you first learn about sex?
It’s a question that every adult can answer but whose responses will differ greatly. Some of us learned from our parents, some from our schools, from older siblings, friends, the internet or even porn. Why is this relevant you might ask? And why are you reading about this on Nasty Gal?
Well.. Did you know that according to the Center of Disease Control, there are 19 million new cases of STIs in the US each year, and that young people (ages 15-24) account for nearly half of all new diagnoses? This is an epidemic that is not shown in the media, that is hushed by religious communities, and not actively fought against.
This problem starts at home. Although sex is inherently natural to us humans (hey, it’s how we reproduce), it’s still a taboo subject. So most parents, even if they believe their children should have some form of sexual education, are stuck in a cultural ritual of treating sex as a forbidden topic. This then leads their kids to only learn about sex from their friends or school. This is where the problem lies: There is no standardized sexual education in the United States and curriculum greatly differs school to school, district to district. When there are gaps in the education that adolescents receive, the effect is higher rates of unintended pregnancy, rates of STIs and abortion. All of these come with lasting psychological effects for the person involved. And when they learn about sex from peers who are also misinformed, incorrect information spreads, increasing the risk of unsafe behavior.
Now, back to the question of why Nasty Gal is providing you with this information. It’s no secret that Nasty Gal’s main audience is a large group of young females, specifically young women in their 20s. Sure, you may be above the age of a high schooler, but there is a great chance you missed a portion of this important–and necessary!–information to take you into adulthood. We want to make a change: With the influence of this site, if we can promote safer sex as well as selling some lovely clothes clothes, we are killing two birds with one stone.
I think each of us can think back to high school and know at least one person who got pregnant and it was not planned. The US has the highest rates of unintended pregnancy and STIs out of all the developed nations worldwide. And surprise! The issue, isn’t that we are having more sex; It’s that our education is lacking, so we use less contraception. If you aren’t taught how to take the right precautions before having sex–or even taught how to engage in healthy, pleasurable sex– you are going to be unprepared in making the safest decisions for yourself and your partner.
There are 3 types of Sex Education:
- Abstinence Only: Curriculum where students are taught to abstain from sex.
- Abstinence Plus: Students are taught to abstain but they are still given information on contraception and condoms so if they decide to engage they are somewhat prepared.
- Comprehensive: Students are given a variety of information on sex and the focus is on developing decision making skills when it comes to their sex lives instead of abstaining.
There are pros and cons to each. People whom are pro abstinence-only education believe that teaching children about sex and how to have safe sex encourages them to go out and have intercourse. Although, this is proven untrue, it is a leading theory within that belief. However, abstinence education in the US does not cause abstinence behavior. To the contrary, teens in states where abstinence-only is taught have higher rates of teen pregnancy and STIs than states with comprehensive education. This is due to the fact that when you provide teens and young adults with the right tools and education, they have the necessary means to make safer and smarter decisions for their sex lives. A main issue when promoting abstinence-only is that we are promoting heterosexual intercourse for pro-creation purposes only and we are leaving out sex for pleasure and consent!
Having sex comes with risks. And you might think, well it won’t happen to me. But having unprotected sex is playing with fire. Here’s the thing: STIs and bacteria don’t discriminate. They don’t care if you’re cute, educated, clean, well-dressed. If you don’t use condoms or get checked regularly, they could become your reality. And while that might sound scary, don’t let it deter you. STIs are mostly treatable and there are many ways to diminish your risk of contracting them in the first place. The more you know about sex, the easier it will be to make smarter and healthier decisions for you and your partner. Over the next few months, in this column, I will provide you with information on how to safeguard your sex life and the different issues that come up as a sexually active person. From STDs, birth control, sexual assault, we will tackle it all. Being comfortable talking about it is key to having consensual, safer, pleasurable sex. And you owe that to yourself!
· Disclaimer: It is recognized that access to sexual healthcare can depend on your specific cultural background including your family’s religion, where you live, socioeconomic status, ability, race, ethnicity, and any other identity you hold. We are hoping to provide information relevant to teenagers and young adults of all sexual orientations and gender identities. We do not assume our readers are cisgendered and straight, so we have tried to use inclusive language by not conflating sex and gender and varying pronouns between he, she, and they. This is not written by a doctor or certified professional. Reading the information does not replace consulting a doctor about your sexual health.