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Davis, California

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Probably not the (Trumpian-ish) argument you were expecting for sex ed

You should be required to take sex ed at the UCs before you graduate

There are plenty of scary statistics — I think they are terrifying — depicting how more states than not in our fine country do not require sexual education, which they may or may not even require in their public schools, to be medically accurate. Sperm? What are sperm? The only “S” words that states like Alabama and Mississippi are interested in when in comes to sex are words like SHAME and…STORK. Thankfully, California, God bless us all, leads the way with some of the most comprehensive sex ed in the country, under The California Healthy Youth Act, passed in 2016. California even cares enough to codify that it wants its kids to be able to talk to each other about sex — at least enough to avoid legal trouble (more about that later).

Similar scary statistics tell us that sex ed of the non-abstinence based variety, unlike what is so popular in conservative states (well, most states), does wonderful things like prevent teen pregnancy and reduce rates of STIs (and how curious, that those who are so pushy with their views on abortion can’t grasp the notion that empowering women with the choice to not get pregnant in the first place would take the decision whether or not to have an abortion right off the table).

California’s present leadership concerning sex ed is a step in the right direction, albeit an inadequate one. Sex ed should not be about simply mitigating the life-altering consequences of infection or an unplanned child. Sex ed should be about opening up unforeseen, amazing potential facets of life. No, I’m not talking about anything specific like discovering tantra, though of course, whatever floats your boat. What I’m talking about are communication skills.

Sex education cannot simply be comprehensive and science-based at the K-12 level; it needs to be truly sex positive and at the college level too. The California Healthy Youth Act promotes, “Healthy relationships for youth,” and California students grades 7 through 12 are taught, “Knowledge and skills related to recognizing, building, and maintaining healthy relationships that are based on mutual affection and free from violence, coercion and intimidation.” Except the happiness of an adult is predicated on so much more than being free from violence, coercion and intimidation.

Sex ed needs to be more than birth control and STIs; it needs to be elevated into the college classroom where messy, explicit, uncomfortable and delicate conversations can happen about how to communicate sexually in intimate situations, empowering young adults for a lifetime of optimized intimate relationships — conversations we don’t know how to have in this country. Ever been to Europe? Their attitudes toward sex are kilometers different than our own.

What is almost all the art we consume about? The entire music industry? The books we read? Love and it’s close synonym/culmination, sex, drive our economy. The we’re-so-desperate-for-mediocre-erotica-it-grossed-over-one-billion-dollars franchise is also the best-selling novel of all time (I hate “Fifty Shades”). The history of hundreds of years of poetry irrefutably demonstrates the importance of love and sex. Sex is the crux of our existence — and not simply because it’s our rote biological imperative. The pleasure we can gift one another is humankind’s most powerful common denominator and Americans need to do it better.

We are severely truncating the potential joy of the human experience if we limit the desired result of sex ed to the avoidance of trauma at the expense of prioritizing the responsible appreciation of pleasure. Better communication around sex leads to more fulfilled humans. People are not born knowing how to communicate in this way. High school probably isn’t the proper or most efficient venue, which is why I propose comprehensive, science-based, sex positive sex ed be a required class at the UCs. Let California lead the way once again.

It’s tragic that there are people who die having gone their whole lives wanting to be touched a certain way by their partners but not being able to articulate it to them. I also thought it was tragic when, a few years ago, my roommate told me she had never had an orgasm with a partner because she didn’t know how to talk to her partners. She is nowhere near the only instance of this I’ve encountered. I know too many people tied up in shame and silence when it comes to their bodies and unachievable pleasure, and it’s all avoidable with a little knowledge.

Hell, call required college sex ed a tool for capitalism if you have to. Happier people make for better workers…more robust GDP for our fine state…a larger budget surplus better insulates us from Trump. Or, you might go so far as to say that if the Trumps of the world received decent sex ed and were living their most fulfilled, blissed-out, shame-free sexual lives (ew) (I’m a hypocrite), then there would be no Trumps. He’d be too busy being happy and wouldn’t need the rapt attention of an entire nation to fill the hole in his soul. All from sex ed. You’re welcome.

Written by: Lauren Frausto — lrfrausto@ucdavis.edu

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.


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