Thank you, Colorado Department of Public Health, for partnering with the Colorado Initiative to Reduce Unintended Pregnancy and creating BeforePlay, a new sex education campaign geared toward 18-29 year olds to help them find resources on STD prevention, contraception, and pregnancy — but also to destigmatize the discussion of tricky sexual issues.
BeforePlay wants to be the hub for a statewide effort to "reduce unintended pregnancy and help 'normalize' conversation around sexual health and well being," according to their website, which stresses that the issue is crucial given that about 40% of Colorado pregnancies are unintended, with the rate even higher among young adults in their twenties. "Poor knowledge about effective contraception or how to use it, jobs without health insurance, and ambivalence toward starting a family — If it happens, it happens — all contribute to this situation," the site states. Wow, a government program that actually responds to pressing sex ed issues in a rational, accessible, non-preachy way! Has anyone told Rick Santorum about this yet?! He might want to give back his Colorado primary win.
The website has tons of well-designed information on birth control, STDs, and pregnancy — and some silly but fun PSAs that don't try too hard to be hip — but the really revolutionary features focus on discussion. BeforePlay offers a selection of mini-documentaries, in which a bunch of young people answer questions like, "Who do you talk to about sexual health?" "What type of contraceptive do you use?" and "Do you have a gyno?" Then, there's my favorite section, "Conversation Starter," where users select the issue they want to talk about (pregnancy, birth control, STDs) and who they want to discuss it with (friends, family, partner, healthcare provider). It's extremely detailed but also very straightforward. Let's say you want to discuss birth control with a family member — you can choose one of three sample questions, such as, "My family doesn't think I should be having sex or using birth control, but I believe it's my choice." BeforePlay then gives you two ways to deal with the conversation: "Ease Me In," a more guarded approach, and the no-nonsense "Give It To Me Straight."
Ease Me In:
This is kind of a hard conversation to have with you, and believe me, I've gone over it again and again in my head. But I feel like it's important to be open with one another. I do understand your concerns with me having sex or using birth control, but I want you to trust that I am taking all the right steps to be safe and make sure it doesn't turn into something I can't handle.
Give It To Me Straight:
Being sexually active and using birth control has nothing to do with age, or status, or personal character. They are decisions that should be made on a case-by-case basis. In my case, I am enjoying my life and my choices. I hope that you can respect my decision, even if it is not what you'd choose for me.
It's pretty easy to find detailed info on STDs nowadays, but it's way more difficult for those who didn't grow up with good sex education programs or informative, nonjudgmental mentors (so, sadly, the vast majority of Americans) to figure out how to broach these types of topics. I hope the other 49 states follow Colorado's example.
BeforePlay: New Website Gets Young Adults in Colorado Talking About Sexual Health [RH Reality Check]