I remember the first time I extensively learned about puberty in school. It was the end of the year, and all the girls in my fifth-grade class got to go to the library and watch a video. I don't really remember the video, but I do remember receiving the largest pad I've ever seen and a pamphlet on how my body is going to change over the next few years. Obviously, at that age, we were all embarrassed but also thought it was pretty funny, and we wondered what the boys would receive. All humor aside, I did not have another sex ed class until my freshman year of high school.
I went through middle school hearing all these different things about sex, everyone was having their first kiss, and a lot of them shockingly were going farther than just making out. I was too embarrassed to ask my parents and even my friends about the things that I heard, so I wandered through my adolescent life confused. It wasn't until my freshman year of high school that I got the scoop.
Lucky for our school district, we had a whole semester of this class, and we learned a lot more than the average American did. I asked around, and in one Arizona school the students had one week of sex ed in sixth grade, and then one month freshman year. In a California school, they only had a basic run through of genitalia and the childbirth process in seventh grade, and nothing after that. In Las Vegas, they had the stereotypical "Mean Girls lecture" where the coach was telling everyone if they have sex, they'll die.
In our health class, we mostly learned about our bodies, and how our reproductive organs worked, STD's, and the importance of condoms. Unlike our fifth grade lesson, we did not need parental permission to take this class. The majority of students, if not all had to take this class. The problem is, we learned a lot about STD's, and how to avoid pregnancy, but we did not learn about LGBTQ+ sex, we did not learn about what to do if you become pregnant and don't want to keep it, and we definitely did not learn anything about consent.
It's good that we learn about STD's and how our bodies actually work. I think it's very important to know how things work, however, this information is not as valuable when we aren't including everyone. Ignorance is the biggest divider in this country right now, and so many issues could be solved by intersectionality in a sex ed classroom. We can spare the spreading of HIV and AIDS if we teach young people how to prevent these things, and end the stereotype that it only happens in the gay community.
America as a whole needs proper sex education. We need to stop scaring impressionable students into being abstinent because that doesn't work. When we don't teach them that it is OK to have sex, when you are ready, not when you're pressured, they will take it much more seriously and be more cautious. Preaching abstinence creates rebellion and fear, then they're too scared to go buy condoms, and end up not using them. You could ask the school nurse, but no one really wants to do that. We need to have a mandatory class, for a whole semester, at least once in middle school and once in high school.