Commentary

Commentary: Let’s Talk About Sex (Ed)

E.Chou/The Phillipian

Sex education: we all know that it can be uncomfortable to think about and maybe an annoying interruption to your day. Nonetheless, it is essential to any high school curriculum, and here at Andover, Juniors have only recently began theirs.

Before spring break, students listened to a talk by YES+, the sex positivity group on campus, and then engaged in “healthy relationships” talks in E.B.I. and in their dorms. Some students studied the reproductive system in their Biology-100 courses, and were visited by a Rebecca M. Sykes Wellness Center counselor to discuss various methods of birth control and different commonly seen S.T.I.s and S.T.D.s. While this education was progressive and broached topics not often discussed in other sex education curriculums, it is not good enough. I believe it is crucial to both expand the current curriculum and move the sex education and healthy relationships talks to the first few weeks of Junior year.

Orientation is an important time—at the start of Junior year, we have to adapt to a new environment, meet new people, and adjust to being in high school. While Andover incorporates progressive sex talks into its curriculum, the fact that these talks take place months into the school year, and thus risk being too late to be effective, is problematic. Having these talks so deep into Winter Term suggests that Andover is forgetting that some Juniors are already sexually active. The State of the Academy reports that, in recent years, at least 18 percent of Juniors at Andover have engaged in some form of sexual activity. In 2018, it was also reported that over 10 percent of those sexually active at Andover do not use barrier-method protection while engaging in sex. Andover’s student body is composed of people from all different places and backgrounds. Their previous sex education will vary, and a lack of information can lead to poor decisions and unsafe environments. Thus, Andover should have comprehensive, clear, and helpful sex education early in the school year, to make sure every student, no matter where they come from, will be prepared and informed during their time at Andover.

Overall, however, Andover is very progressive—it teaches Affirmative Consent policies, for example, and discusses pleasure and masturbation in a mature and open way. Unfortunately, one does not have to look far to discover stories of poor sex education in American high schools and how it has negatively impacted communities. According to Planned Parenthood, in previous years, around half of adolescents do not receive information about birth control before engaging in sexual activity for the first time. It is crucial now, more than ever, to have accurate and informative sex education, especially when incorrect data can be so easily transmitted via the internet and virally through social media. Andover can take further strides to inform its students, especially during their first year, by having formal, recurring, and serious sex education talks throughout the year, and by ensuring that students who are not in Biology also have knowledge about the reproductive system, birth control, S.T.I.s, and S.T.D.s. Andover could continually support anonymous student surveys and Google Forms, as I know from experience that students are often afraid to ask questions in person or during a talk, or they think of questions as an afterthought.

Clubs on campus can also work with the school to create and distribute sex ed related materials. They can create online, Andover-specific resources so students can access them whenever and wherever they may be searching for information. Furthermore, Andover has to ensure that its sex education curriculum includes all genders and sexual orientations. I know from personal experience that often, sex education classes do only have a brief comment at the start indicating that they may be heteronormative. Andover needs to ensure an inclusive, informative, and expanded Junior sex education.

Sex is not av single-term, forty-five-minute topic. Andover can do better for its students, especially the younger ones, in terms of preparing them early on for whatever sexual activity they may choose to engage in.

Sophie Glaser is a Junior from West Hartford, Conn. Contact the author at sglaser22@andover.edu