I grew up in Mississippi and had an anti-sex/abstinence/pro-Christian “sex” education. The teacher was a coach, in his 50s, who proceeded to show us slide shows of STDs on genitals and photos of HIV people. I recall a boy in class vomiting at the site of STDs that were untreated. There was no discussion of condoms, pleasure or resources for women/girls who considered / already were sexually active. In the state with the highest rates of teen pregnancy and STDs, pro-sex / safe-sex education seems like a no-brainer, but it’s all about controlling and keeping people in the system of poverty, ruled by the rule of the “good book”.
As a result of the shame, I decided to do my own research. I decided to get on birth control at age 18 and faced walls from the OBGYN who grilled me about whether or not I had a boyfriend. I said I did not and that I was legally an adult and this is what I wanted. I finally got the pill, with no education. During a sexual experience, I thought I may have become impregnated and requested plan B from the same dr. She refused and said I should take 10 birth control pills instead. I also investigated “pregnancy crisis centers” as an exploratory exercise and was greeted with shame and handouts about Jesus Christ and the Lord. It was completely horrifying! I was not pregnant, but the fear embedded in the education did not provide me with any actual tools or resources. The problem in the town extended throughout the education and doctor pipeline.
Fast forward five years later. I was a substitute teacher at the same high school. I proceeded to talk about condoms to class. I got in trouble with the school administrator team. Later, a 14 year old student confided in me that she was pregnant by her 20 year old boyfriend. I was 22 years old and asked if it was consensual and suggested she alert an adult she can trust, perhaps a nurse. I felt such sadness for this child. She clearly was looking for a way to stop the pregnancy and did not have any resources or educational background in this very important aspect of birth control, consensual sex, and sexual grooming.
Now, in my late 30s, I’m deeply embedded in reproductive rights and choice. Abstinence-only education ruined my early adult experiences in taking control of my reproductive health and ruined the opportunities for education, wealth and exploration for countless other women and girls.