Tuesday on Capitol Hill Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Senator Frank Lautenburg re-introduced the REAL Act, federal legislation that would for the first time in history put federal dollars toward comprehensive sex education.
I was honored to be at the press conference for the introduction of the
bill; it’s was like watching a dream I’ve had for a long time almost
come true. I have a long history with abstinence-only-until-marriage
programs, starting when I was fifteen in Lubbock, Texas. I’ve now spent
eight years (more than 1/3 of my life!) as an advocate for
comprehensive sex education because I’ve seen my generation lost to
programs that put ideology before our health – and I don’t want it to
happen to the next one.
My school district had a strict abstinence-only-until-marriage policy –
and some of the highest rates of STI’s and unwanted pregnancy in the
nation. Not only did we skip the anatomy portion of biology in
deference to the ab-only policy, our "sex education" didn’t start until
high school – FAR too late to do us much good. During freshman year we
were herded into the auditorium to listen to a lecture from a local
pastor on ‘Love, Sex, and Dating.’
As the culmination of every presentation, the pastor pulled a girl up
onstage, produced a dirty, dingy toothbrush from his pocket and asked
if she would brush her teeth with it. When she invariably said no, he
pulled out another toothbrush, this one in its original box, and
repeated the question. When she said she said yes to that one, he
brandished the rejected toothbrush above his head and announced to the
audience, "If you have sex before marriage, you are the dirty
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While this sounds extreme (and bizarre), abstinence-only-until-marriage
programs commonly use degrading scare tactics like these, provide
misinformation about condoms and contraceptions, forward
generalizations about sexuality that are based on biases about gender
and sexual orientation, and, as in my high school, contain religious
messaging that violates the U.S. Constitution.
This year is the year to rid our schools of these programs and provide
young people with medically accurate, age-appropriate comprehensive sex
education that will equip them with the tools to make responsible
decisions about sex and relationships throughout their lives. The REAL
Act would do just that – send a letter to your representatives asking them to support the bill. (May I suggest donating your Facebook status to this link and tweeting and re-tweeting it, too?!)
This can be the year of youth – fitting after an election that
mobilized a generation and elected a president that recognizes young
people as assets to society who deserve more than junk science and
ideology. Enough is enough – it’s time for REAL sex education in
This post was first published at Amplify.