A State-By-State Sex Ed Primer

Did you know that 24 states don't require sex education?

Salon's Tracy Clark-Flory reports that New York City's new mandate that schools teach sex ed is a move in a positive direction for people of New York, but that there's still much work to be done nationwide in assuring that students are receiving medically accurate, non-biased, and non-judgmental comprehensive sex education. She writes,

These are states that not only fail to mandate sex ed, but require that when it is taught, abstinence and the "importance of sex only within marriage" are stressed. These states make sure to defend "traditional" values, but they don't protect scientific ones: Unlike some states, they don't require that classes provide medically accurate information.

You know what comes next. Clark-Flory breaks down just how crappy things are in the states with wonky sex ed requirements, in a sort of Hall of Shame of misguided attempts at instilling sexual shame-based morality. Texas, for example, is one of the worst offenders,

It ranks 5th for teen pregnancy, 3rd in young people with AIDS and 4th in terms of syphilis among teens. A whopping 96 percent of Texas school districts teach abstinence only, according to a study by the Texas Freedom Network.

Unlike students in Texas, my schoolmates and I were lucky to have a fiercely progressive woman at the helm of the Family and Consumer Sciences Education (ne "Home Economics") department, and she insisted that a comprehensive sexual education curriculum be taught to all students who passed through the district. In a tiny town 45 minutes from the nearest stoplight, this was no small feat.

On the first day of sex ed, the teacher distributed a list of vocabulary words and made us go around the classroom and read and define a list of sex-related vocabulary words out loud. No laughing was allowed.

Some of us were lucky and got words like "ovary," but because there were only 15 of people, the list made a couple of passes through us, and one of my classmates had the misfortune of having to read both "labia" and "ejaculation." The point of the exercise, my teacher explained, was to teach us that using the proper terms for things wasn't something to giggle about; it was part of discussing sex in an adult manner. What we, as 8th graders, got from the experience was years of hilarious memories of Jason T, red-faced, eyes cast downward, telling all of us what a testicle was.

It's unfortunate that students across America have not been given the same opportunity.

The Sex Ed Hall of Shame [Salon]

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