This I Believe

Razia - Hilo, Hawaii
Entered on September 15, 2006

This I Believe

Just Say No to Abstinence Only Education

I became sexually mature within a small window of freedom in the 1970’s. Birth control and abortion were available in every State. HIV and AIDS were completely unknown. It was the era after the sexual revolution and we took our liberties for granted.

My Father was an immigrant and my Mother, first generation. Both were raised in religious households, my Father, Muslim, and my Mother, Jewish, (which could be another essay altogether). Both my parents were politically left of center, however, morally and sexually they were as conservative as home cooking.

Sex was never discussed in our house. I can still hear my Mother clucking her tongue and her whispered, “Good Grief” resonating in my ears when there was even the faintest hint that two people were going to go to bed together on screen. Like many a child I was bewildered by what was acceptable. My parent’s values were a stark contrast to what popular culture told me was ok. I was left to navigate the world of puberty, dating, sex, drugs and rock and roll on my own.

Today I am a teen reproductive health educator. My goal is to encourage adolescents to choose abstinence, but my methods and beliefs are diametrically opposed to the Just Say No – Abstinence Only crowd. Abstinence Only curriculum promotes no sex until marriage. Consequently, students have a limited understanding of their reproductive systems, birth control options, and ways to avoid sexually transmitted infections.

This I believe: I believe that our government puts our children at risk by funding this kind of curriculum. I believe that those of us who disagree with our governments policies, have an obligation to our youth to bring this era to an end.

Did you know that the United States has the twice the rates of teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and abortions than our closest competitor in the industrialized world? Why? Our government censors a discussion of healthy sexuality in our schools, yet our media is full of demeaning sexual images. It’s no wonder our children are confused. European nations, on the other hand, teach healthy sexuality comprehensively from childhood through adulthood. I look at my own life, and I wonder what mistakes and heartache I might have avoided had someone taught me openly about sexuality.

I believe that sex can be a beautiful fulfilling part of life. I also believe it can be ugly and cruel. I want the adolescents of this nation to have the awareness to be discriminating in their behavior. I want the adolescents of this nation to remain safe from life altering and life taking diseases. And above all else, I want the adolescents of this nation to have what I lacked, the knowledge and skills to make informed and mature choices about their own sexuality. This can only be achieved through open, honest communication and realistic instruction. This I believe.