Let’s start with what we know: Sex sells, and it’s a buyer’s market. Of course, the primary consumers in this system of carnal capitalism are young people. The teens and tweens of the United States, their minds nubile and malleable, are flooded almost incessantly with sexually saturated messages.
Models in advertisements are selling their bodies first, the product second. An overwhelming amount of popular music has been reduced to nothing more than instructions on how to undress and a catchy beat. The decision to do a sex scene can become the defining moment of a female actor’s career.
We really can’t be surprised, then, that rates of teen pregnancy are the highest they’ve been in 15 years.
Urban areas in particular, such as Philadelphia, have seen the steepest increases in these pregnancy rates. Furthermore, the Center for Disease Control reported a steady increase of STD infection in our city, topping out with 5.2 percent of our population infected with chlamydia and 0.3 percent with gonorrhea.
Even more disheartening are the 30,000 people living with AIDS in the Philadelphia area – and that’s not even counting those infected with HIV.
But have all these statistics been enough to scare you into a life of celibacy? Of course not. Then we should not rely solely on this venereal blitzkrieg to keep Philadelphia middle and high school kids from having sex.
We need to realize nothing can quite match the power of a raging hormone – especially not the standard abstinence-only programs in our city schools. These programs, funded on the federal level by an allocation of more than $1 billion since their implementation a few years ago, are uni-dimensional to say the least.
As Eleanor Levie of the Philadelphia Jewish Voice said, “There has never been any federal funding stream at all for comprehensive sex education.”
The solution is one that takes several factors into consideration.
The Coalition for Quality Children’s Media reported a definitive link between popular representations of sexuality and sexual activity in youths. It appears then, in a culture where a child can be exposed to sex as soon as he’s able to prop himself up to face a TV, sexual education needs to be culturally supplemental, as well as comprehensive.
This means sexual education must build off and refute negative sexual imagery portrayed by media, and as radical as it might sound, it must be done in grade school.
Let’s face it: Physiologically, sex isn’t exactly difficult to figure out. Grade-school students can and have done it – a notion that’s nearly certain, considering 33 percent of junior high school graduates and 67 percent of high school graduates are not virgins, according the Philadelphia Examiner.
What’s notoriously difficult, however, is finding a way to understand the emotional complexities behind this act, why it’s reserved to the confines of marriage and what kind of emotional consequences the deviation from sex within this loving institution can cause. Many people don’t even figure out these aspects until well into adulthood.
All kids hear in school, though, are hard-to-pronounce words like chlamydia and gonorrhea. No wonder they’re hardly fazed.
Junior sociology major Daniela Fiorentino said she agrees with the comprehensive, supplemental sex-ed methodology.
“Kids don’t realize that relationships you have in high school do not last forever,” Fiorentino said. “Therefore, continually giving the most intimate thing you own to multiple people can have devastating emotional effects when that person doesn’t reciprocate their feelings.”
Instilling a sense of self-worth, understanding and appreciation for the act of sexual intercourse within marriage at a young age to combat early exposure to negative sexual imagery? There’s nothing radical about that.
Chase Miller can be reached at email@example.com.