When I was 11 years old, I was channel surfing and came across something I had never seen before: A group of people at a beach house, drinking, having sex, and fighting with weird accents. This mess of a show was the MTV hit, Jersey Shore. Watching this crazy gang of 20 somethings party in their beach house was very interesting, but extremely complex for my 11 year old brain. What were they doing? I knew I probably should not be watching it, but I didn't know why. As I got older, abstinence sex ed was taught at my school. A quote that closely describes my experience is a classic from Mean Girls, “Don’t have sex, because you will get pregnant and die.” I thought about Snooki and the gang, and from what I was being told, they definitely were not following “the rules.” From then on, my brain put an unfortunately false puzzle together: sex must be a shameful thing that only leads to chaos. I stopped watching Jersey Shore after that.
Yes, I acknowledge that Jersey Shore is probably not the best influence when it comes to safe sex and healthy relationships (especially for an 11 year old). But looking back, that group was a lot better off than I was. Throughout high school, I continued to view sex as a shameful thing. It wasn’t until college that I started to understand the construct around sex and the importance of safe, inclusive, and empowering sexual education.
What is Sexual Education
Sexual education is the teaching of a large variety of topics surrounding sex and sexuality. This can include safe sex, STIs, relationships, consent, LGTBQ+, and many more topics! Most middle and high schools provide sexual education, but a large majority of schools in the United States do not teach all aspects of sexual health. According to Planned Parenthood, In the 37 states that require sex/HIV education, a majority stress abstinence, even if that means the curriculum is not medically accurate. Only 18 states require education on birth control. Only 10 states require education on LGBTQ+ sex and relationships (Planned Parenthood, 2023). Most students are not being given the well rounded sexual education that they deserve.
So why does this matter? Safe, inclusive, and empowering sexual education gives students the knowledge and skills necessary to express themselves, create healthy boundaries, be safe, and understand their bodies!
Sex Ed in College
Sexual education is very important in college, because students can gain knowledge they may not have received in high school. For a large majority of students, college is a time for self exploration. Students are given the space to learn more about themselves, their values, beliefs, and are able to explore their sexuality. Due to this, it is important that students are given sexual education tools that promote safety, respect, pleasure, and fun. Not all people choose to engage in sexual activity, and that is okay. All students, whether sexually active or not, deserve to be given safe and inclusive spaces to learn and grow in their own sexuality if they choose to do so.
Sexual Health at GVSU
Grand Valley offers an abundance of sexual health education opportunities. The Wellness Information Team (WIT) is a team of GVSU students that provide education and resources on sexual health (as well as general health and nutrition). We provide a large variety of programming, presentations, and supplies to aid students in their sexual health and overall wellness. We can even take the educational fun on the go with our WIT Cart. This cart has tons of safer sex supplies, including a variety of condoms, dental dams, internal condoms, and lube. We also have candy, stickers, fidgets, relaxation aids, and so much more! To find the WIT cart’s location, check out the RecWell Instagram! We always post where we are around campus.
Sexual Education is A SHORE Bet!
Sexual health education is extremely important to have on college campuses. Since many students come to college without comprehensive sexual education, the information and tools need to be provided to help students make empowered and safe decisions about their sexual health. Grand Valley was able to provide this for me as an awkward, abstinence-only scarred, jersey shore loving, freshman. And I could not be more grateful! With that, I will leave you with an inspirational quote:
“Yes, I had sex. Like, hello, you can have sex if you're into somebody. It's natural.” — Sammi “Sweetheart” from Jersey Shore
By: Annie Seeber, WIT Peer Educator
Posted by Katie Jourdan on Permanent link for Sexual Health Education is A SHORE Bet! on March 31, 2023.