There’s a lot of things that fascinate me. Irony, paradoxes, and contradictions to name a few are always fun to think about because you can easily get lost in them. I’m also fascinated by body art, but that’s off topic.
There are many topical taboos in society which cause us to feel awkward and tense when they come up in conversations. Sex. Sex. Sex. SEX is one of them, and I find it hilarious that it’s so shunned and considered indecent. Even as I have multiple tabs open on a community computer in a study lounge, I’m worried that people are glimpsing at my screen and judging me. *Why is she googling sex, lol?* Hints of sex, sexual activity, and acts that are sexually suggestive can be found anywhere online, in advertisements, and in the media and through those platforms it is so normally present that I believe we’ve developed some sort of tolerance towards it. The irony. So why is it still weird to talk about sex?
My professor said it best when during lecture she stated that it’s important that we understand sex since it’s such a significant role in our society. I don’t even believe that I completely understand the subject (thanks, below-par high school Health class education) or all of the science behind it. In fact, most of the knowledge I’ve acquired about sex has been obtained from my own research and here at college.
We can start there I suppose. Why is basic health education so lacking in the sex department? I would have been more comfortable finding out about orgasms through someone or something more professional and trusted than random Internet articles. Why were guys taught about the existence of condoms, but not how to use them?
According to this article from Newsweek, “fewer than half of high schools and only a fifth of middle schools teach lessons on all 16 of the nationally recommended topics for sexual health education…[and] less than 40 percent of schools nationwide required sex and health education for graduation” (Firger). And the education received by the students more than likely will not cover information on LGBTQ+ identities. In fact, “[o]nly 24.4 percent do so—despite the fact that the number of teens who self-identify with that community grows every year” (Firger).
Also, why was the first time I heard of Planned Parenthood when it made headlines about possible defunding? In this article on Psychology Today, according to Ernest Becker, a cultural anthropologist, “sex is such a problem because it reminds humans of their basic, core animal nature” (Heflick). The premise is that sex is primarily seen as dirty or unholy and makes people feel immoral if the thought comes in their head. Especially if a person immerses themselves in religious beliefs and concerns themselves with heaven, having sexual thoughts distracts from the idea that we are not animalistic beings but rather ones that can be spiritual (Heflick). In which, it makes sense why the Catholic church (from my own experience) heavily supports abstinence and in itself makes sex a “taboo.”
What can be drawn from these articles is a common theme: people are scared of sex because they intrinsically think it is immoral. A study by University of Michigan’s Terri D. Conley asked people to estimate what percentage of 1,000 random people that had unprotected sex yesterday would die from contracting HIV from just that single occasion and what percentage of 1,000 different random people would die in a crash on 300 mile car trip (Earp). The guesstimates were about 71 out of every thousand people to die from HIV and 4 out of every thousand people from a car crash (Earp).
The reality is, “you are actually 20 times more likely to die from the car trip than from HIV contracted during an act of unprotected sex” (Earp).
This fear of sex or sexual related diseases stems from the fear of sex affecting your morality and also the idea that sex is “risky” or dangerous behavior can lead you to poor choices in health (Earp). If only there were a way to educate the entirety of society on how to be safe and enjoy sex, maybe sex stigmas and sex shaming wouldn’t be as large of an issue as they are today. At least, I know I would have felt more ready to face the world had I learned it before I graduated high school.