The topic of sex might seem trivial, but everyone should be talking about a concept so pressing and relevant. Multiple factors are influencing this “hush hush” attitude surrounding sex such as fear, embarrassment or just simply a lack of information to even engage in such a conversation. Regardless of the reasoning, sex — including consent and safe practices — should be discussed continuously throughout the course of every young adult’s life. Sex education has the potential to decrease the stigma surrounding sex, better educate students on the impact of sex on their lives and ultimately can inform students on different ways to harbor safe, consensual and healthy sexual interactions. It is just as important as any other subject taught in school, and should be treated as such.
The problem of lack of knowledge begins and ends with school. In order to better analyze and address the problem of sexual assault and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases throughout high schools and universities, sex education must be prioritized in our education system.
In Los Angeles, the first time sex is introduced formally to students is typically in a middle school health class. In this course, teachers also discuss alcohol and drugs so that the sex education aspect of this course is lacking; it focuses not on the nuances of consent, but rather a rudimentary explanation of menstruation and awkward demonstrations of how boys should apply condoms and also the reductive version of consent represented by the “no means no” maxim. Obviously that message is not clear enough given the unfortunate frequency of sexual assaults on and off campus.
In addition to this “health” course, comes the online course USC freshmen are required to take before class registration. However, this course is too basic, and students can easily click past all of the important information and take the childish quizzes at the end of each section without remembering a single lesson. Online courses are inadequate because they do not allow students to ask questions. Obviously this course is not very helpful in deterring sexual assaults and sexually transmitted infections, since they are still very frequent throughout universities globally. Moreover, there is no sexual education for the LGBTQ community in the course at USC, so LGBTQ students are even more disadvantaged when it comes to the topic of sex.
The glaring lack of sex education began in 2009 when the Los Angeles Unified School District cut sexual education out of high school curriculums due to lack of funding. The district claimed that in order for sexual education to be most effective, teachers would have to be trained to teach the topic better, which takes time and costs money. However, teachers routinely go to English, science and math workshops to better educate themselves on those topics, so it should be common sense to update curriculum on a topic such as health that is more useful to students.
Former LAUSD superintendent Michelle King said in a 2009 Los Angeles Times interview that “single-sex education might attract more families to the district and improve student achievement.” However, this was only in reference to classrooms that aresame-sex, which is a sign of progress, but still not addressing the root of the problem of not teaching sex-ed at all. Furthermore, the other problem is that parents do not like the idea of a teacher instructing their child on such a sensitive topic.
LGBTQ-inclusive sex education is met with a similar wariness. Some parents believe that if their child is in a sex education class that is inclusive of LGBTQ relationships, they might become confused about their own sexuality. Regardless, each classroom statistically has someone belonging to the LGBTQ community, and everyone should be equally educated, regardless of sexuality.
No one knows enough about this important topic, which is only spreading the ignorance further into society. Important issues such as consent should be common knowledge, not something only taught to students online without any sort of effort.
Sexual education, especially when it focuses on issues of consent and identity, should be common knowledge, and treated as equal to other core subjects. To properly serve their students, school systems must revise their sexual education curricula and invest more in the crucial subject.