My sexual education is a product of the Fort Collins educational community. I grew up in Fort Collins, attended elementary, junior high, and high school in Poudre School District public schools, and was subject to the human sexuality curriculum taught during that time, an “abstinence-only” sexual education curriculum.
But starting last fall, PSD began teaching its newly revamped Human Sexuality Curriculum, which emphasizes abstinence but also teaches contraception, safe sex, and other aspects of healthy human sexuality, to students 7th grade and above.
It’s about damn time.
When I was a student in PSD, it was the typical sex-ed program leftover from the 50s. Abstinence was the focus (required under Colorado state law), and sexually transmitted diseases were emphasized in their cruelty towards the soft flesh of the genitals, possibility of permanence, and ease of transmission.
The dangers of pregnancy were highlighted and safe sex was shown to be improbable.
The most frequent answer teachers offered was “abstinence, no ‘ifs,’ ‘ands,’ or ‘buts.'”
It became apparent to me as an impressionable young whippersnapper that the consequences of sexual activity greatly outweighed the benefits, which appeared to be nil.
Safe sexual activity was never presented to me as being “ok.”
I remember being told by a teacher that HIV could be contracted through saliva. In another instance, I was told all types of STIs could be contracted via mutual masturbation. Another teacher told me that the passing of the HIV virus through a microscopic hole in a latex condom is similar to a BB rolling through a door frame: All inaccurate information.
“Ok,” I thought, “no sex until I’m 50.” A reasonable decision, right?
Why wouldn’t I arrive at such a conclusion? Sexual activity is a disgusting physical act, pervaded by infectious disease, errant pregnancy, immorality, impulsiveness, and irresponsibility, according to my abstinence-only education.
My sexual rationality had been skewed, mutated by years of fear-inducing lecture and graphic slide presentations. Physical intimacy for me was dangerous, scary, and wrong.
But then I got older, and my sexual literacy grew.
I realized not all sexual activity is not pervaded by infectious disease, that unplanned pregnancy is not lurking around every corner to snatch away your youth, that contraceptives and responsible safe sex can be healthy options for well-informed and mature adults: sexual activity can be emotional, spiritual, and intellectual intercourse, healthy and therapeutic.
It was as if my K-12 educational curriculum distrusted me, was unsure of what depraved, indecent, and lewd sex acts I would partake in if I was informed of something other than the dangers of sexual activity.
If they’d let me in on the knowledge that sexual activity can be healthy, safe, or natural, that over 95 percent of people have sex before marriage, and that there are strong emotional and mental components to sexual activity as well, I may have plunged right in.
I may have picked up my Power Rangers backpack, filled it with amyl nitrate, latex costumes, whips, Pogs (for the trip), and some PB and Js, but especially NO condoms, and set off for the red-hot crotch of filth, L.A., to spend the rest of my days fathering illegitimate children, carrying and transmitting diseases, and acting in badly-plotted porn.
By teaching youngsters that sexual curiosities and urges are immoral, dangerous, and irresponsible, abstinence-only education subverts the true nature of healthy human sexual activity.
What’s more, by encouraging an overactive sense of fear towards the risks and consequences of sexual activity rather than a balanced perspective, educators do themselves and their pupils a disservice.
Once students realize they’ve fallen victim to cheap scare tactics and fear-mongering, rather than trusted with complete and useful knowledge, the credibility of their formal sexual education erodes.
The new PSD Human Sexuality Curriculum stresses abstinence as “the best course of action for teenagers,” but also teaches students to “appreciate that both males and females experience sexual feelings, and they are normal and a natural part of the human experience.”
The new PSD curriculum also teaches skills to communicate boundaries, information for reducing the risks associated with sexual activity, and how to develop an increasingly positive sense of self.
Ultimately, our local Poudre School District could become a national leader in human sexuality curricula, simply by teaching normal human sexuality and, more importantly, teaching its students how to approach human sexuality in a healthy and responsible way.
Let’s hope the rest of America’s educational communities get a clue, too.
Drew Haugen is a senior international studies major. His column appears every Monday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.