An open attitude can improve sexual health and education

I am flattered by the reactions on all sides to my column on abortion. Though my column ran several weeks ago, letters on the subject continue to appear both in print and online. I can hardly believe that anyone besides my poor parents actually reads my opinions.

But folks, there are other issues besides abortion that are worth getting excited over. Plus, if you are so excited by the discussion of abortion, by all means make your opinions known through political activism or even just voting!

Believe me, I am passionate about abortion, but I also get pretty riled up about other issues, too. In fact, I am going to embark on a sister subject or a sequel, if you will, to my abortion column that might garner a few equally fervent reactions: sexual health and education.

Step one to improving sexual health and education while, consequently, reducing the need for abortion: a comprehensive sex- and body-positive education program that begins in kindergarten and continues throughout secondary education.

Before anyone gets a hernia, let me clarify that I am by no means advocating that 5-year-olds be taught the intimate details of sexual intercourse or the like. However, I am proposing that sexuality is as essential to human beings as breathing or eating, but exists on a continuum that is not fully developed until much later in life.

Sexuality is not absent or dormant in children, nor is it the same as in fully grown adults. Accordingly, children should understand their bodies in a positive way. I am sure that we can all recall some instance of kissing or flashing or some other bodily shenanigan that took place in our early childhood. These manifestations should be addressed in a positive manner rather than punished.

I do believe that the intimate details of intercourse (both heterosexual and homosexual) and the like should be taught in early middle school. For those who would argue that this age is too young, take a good, long stroll down memory lane and reflect on all those kids who were already experimenting with their sexuality by middle school. By the end of high school, the students of a true sexual education program should know how to protect themselves against unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases (especially AIDS), sexual violence, domestic violence and negative media images — as well as how to safely pleasure themselves as if it’s their job to do so.

Step two to improving sexual health and education: easy and equal access to doctors, contraceptives, emergency contraception and relevant information. This means electing political candidates who will implement universal health care. Doctors and hormonal contraceptives in particular are not cheap, nor is purchasing health insurance.

This also means demanding that every Wal-Mart in Timbuktu keep a pharmacist on staff who is willing to distribute hormonal contraceptives and emergency contraception. Not everyone lives in the booming metropolis of Lexington, where one has his or her choice of distributors of these products within a five-mile radius.

Denial and suppression of sexuality have never been a successful regime. It’s time to do something new. We could be the first generation to push positive sexuality out into the open and potentially offer the next generation a chance at a happy, healthy sexuality without shame. Or maybe I flatter our generation too much in thinking that we could do this.

Carrie Bass is an art history senior. E-mail [email protected].