I was fortunate to enjoy a visit with my daughter in the quirky, vibrant, exuberant, and lovely cities of Berkeley and San Francisco recently. While in Berkeley, I decided to pop into the Doe Library on the campus of UC Berkeley and peruse the detailed exhibit entitled Birds Do It, Bees Do It. It is a fascinating collection of sexuality education materials dating back as far as the early 1900s. These artifacts include books, posters, magazines, ads, condoms, and even entertaining video.
There were two displays that most fascinated me. One was an issue of TIME magazine from 1971, the other an issue of LIFE magazine from 1969. Both covers show young people with looks of confusion, sadness, and maybe even a little fear on their faces. Each cover, despite the obvious difference in the ages of the young people, reflect a sense of innocence.
The cover of LIFE states … “The Debate Splits the Nations Schools.”
Seriously??? 45 years have passed since these magazines were published and we are still debating the issue of what to teach young people in our schools?
Interestingly, conversation surrounding the education of our youth about sexual health actually started in 1940 – when the U.S.Public Health Service pressed schools to teach sexuality education – stating it was an “urgent need”. That was 75 years ago.
And where are we now? The U.S. has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the western world with 77% being unplanned. Half of the new STI diagnoses are found in young adults aged 15-24. Need I say more?
So what needs to change?
Education. Conversation. Removing stigma. Understanding. Acceptance.
As adults it is our responsibility to discuss the realities about sex with our young people. And by realities, I mean all of it. The risks: emotional, physical, and social. But also the beautiful aspect of sex: emotional, physical, and social. If you share the good stuff with young people, logic tells us they will likely respect our opinions and advice when we discuss the risks of unprotected sex and the importance of sexual decision-making skills.
I would love to see faces that represent our youth reflect confidence, contentment, and hopefulness rather than the doleful appearance of the youth seen on these covers, wouldn’t you?
What are your thoughts? How have you discussed sexual health with the young people in your lives?