West Virginia University’s decision to host Laci Green as a guest speaker on sexual education was an ingenious idea in addressing a topic as critically under-discussed as sexual health. Not only did she provide accurate, nonbiased information for all attendees, but she is also a relatable figure to many students because of her status as a YouTube personality closer to our age group.
A 2011 paper titled "Abstinence-Only Education and Teen Pregnancy Rates: Why We Need Comprehensive Sex Education in the U.S." posted online by the United States Library of Medicine indicated that prior to 2005, most schools in this country only provided abstinence-only sex education. Students received no instruction on consent, condoms, birth control or sexually transmitted infections or diseases because it was assumed students who practiced abstinence and refrained from all sexual contact would not need this information.
According to the paper, studies revealed that abstinence-online programs that refused to educate young people comprehensively on sexual health led to an increase in teenage pregnancy rates during that time.
A 2010 publication by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention titled "Educating Teenagers About Sex in the United States" also found strong evidence to support that students who receive formal sex education and discuss sexual health with parents are more likely to know how to refuse sex, use birth control and condoms and have an overall lower risk for teen pregnancy and STIs.
Today, some improvement has been made on this front to address the blatant lack of sexual health knowledge in American young people. College students currently at the ages of 21 and older were young enough in 2005 to still receive abstinence-only education in their youth, and keeping with the times by using social media platforms as educational tools in sexual health is an effective way of getting information out to the right people.
As the National Conference on State Legislature reports on their "State Policies on Sex Education in Schools" webpage, 24 states and the District of Columbia now require some form of sex education, and 33 states require students learn about HIV/AIDS. Unfortunately, only 20 mandate it must be medically accurate, and this standard also varies between whether it is reviewed by local health officials or if it is actually based on the standards of medical professionals. To further complicate the issue, 35 states and D.C. allow parents to refuse their children’s involvement in these topics.
When I was in middle school in West Virginia, the "sex education" provided to me by the health department was a joke. The only teaching I received was an hour of viewing photos of penises infected with an STI—it was not emphasized which one—and being told that the best prevention was abstinence. If one of the girls in our group asked a direct question relating to birth control or actually having sex, the instructors bit their lips, stuttered an awkward answer and went back to pushing abstinence. In my experience, the trend did not improve even throughout high school.
Learning about sexual education is incredibly important. The NCSL reports that while the 15-24 age range only accounts for 25 percent of sexually active individuals, they make up 50 percent of new STI cases. Not only that, but where is the discussion on consent, pleasure or general anatomy? This is where educators like Green become a godsend to young people.
At her presentation on April 20 in Ming Hsieh Hall, Green began with an anatomy lesson, explaining the purpose of the clitoris and debunking the myths surrounding the hymen in female genitalia. She showed students how to properly use a condom and talked about the importance of pleasure in sex. Though some may disagree, all of these topics and more are important for this age group to hear about.
Everyone should know how to have safe, enjoyable sex as it’s a natural part of being human. Shutting children’s ears and denying them accurate information on sexual health does them no favors, and research shows this actually increases their likelihood of contracting an STI or STD, becoming pregnant or even encountering sexually abusive situations.
Many times, adolescents and young adults only have urban myths and whatever "facts" their friends may have obtained to explain what sex is supposed to be. The University inviting well-known experts in the field of sexual health to present these subjects to students is a fantastic step in the direction of making young adults more aware of how to both protect and cherish their bodies.