Sex education and safe sax practices in the South has been widely controversial within legislation and the education system. High schools, in my experience, failed to properly educate young adults in these practices, and the University of Georgia should be the last effort to do so. In light of the heart-beat bill, expected to take effect next year, we need to attack the root of the problem — conservative states are neglecting to provide facts about sex in hopes of abstinence succeeding, and UGA can help change that.
It does not matter whether you vote red or blue, because we all have one common goal — to prevent unwanted pregnancies and STIs. Whether you prefer to use protection or take the route of abstinence, everyone should be properly educated on safe sex. This requires states to teach more than just abstinence. In Georgia’s Sexuality Education Law and Policy, Georgia’s sex education emphasize abstinence until marriage. This law also gives a large power to local school boards to decide specifics subjects outside of abstinence. The school can cover the basis of AIDS prevention and abstinence which satisfies the Georgia Law requirement for sex education in Georgia.
This law reflects my personal experience in high school. The extent of my sex education was learning about STIs, told not to have sex and then what the respective reproductive systems in each body are. My high school neglected to inform me exactly how STIs are contracted, how my body works, or any health awareness for those in the LGBTQ community. It not does come as a shock to me when I learned from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that Georgia ranks fifth in HIV diagnoses. In addition to that, the south is last in HIV/AIDS survival.
A study conducted by an assistant professor at UGA, Kathrin F. Stanger-Hall, shows why sex education needs to be more comprehensive. Georgia is rated at a level 2 in abstinence provisions and levels of abstinence education in state laws and policies, which means abstinence is emphasized in sex education. States that stressed abstinence has a teen pregnancy rate of about 73% whereas those states did not mention abstinence in their education had a rate of 58%. These numbers suggest to Georgia that abstinence will not prevent young adults from having sex, it will only prevent them from having safe sex.
Furthermore, UGA has the potential to make a difference in our students sex education. Since I transferred to UGA, my only experience with sex education was a visit from an employee in the Health Center in my women’s studies class — where she passed out condoms — and the mandatory sexual assault assessment (taken on a computer without real guidance). UGA provides us with ways to see and prevent sexual assault, why do we not have more mandatory and accessible resources to safe sex practices and STI preventions?
Although UGA provides free condoms to all students, I feel that this is not enough. Some may not realize condoms are 98% effective in preventing pregnancy and STIs, but only if used properly. Condoms also do not provide specific information on how birth control works or what happens during fertilization. There is so much more to know than how to put a condom on in safe sex.
Even though there is a somewhat mandated sex education in high school, young adults entering college for the first time will be on their own and in an environment where they can engage in sexual activity freely. Students learning about safe sex at 18 entering into college will benefit greatly coming from a red state that mostly taught them abstinence. UGA does have organizations like Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention and the Lambda Alliance to provide excellent resources on how the general public and the LGBTQ community in particular can practice safe sex.
However, if it was not for that one day in my women’s studies class two years ago, I would have never known about these resources. UGA has the resources, but the university needs to be more proactive in spreading the word about these communities.
The more young adults that are educated in safe sex, the lower pregnancy rates will be. As the Georgia law for sex education has neglected proper training, I believe that UGA could take more initiative in providing this information to their students. A great idea would be to incorporate sex education into our required physical education class. It should be a requirement to learn proper practices to protect the future of UGA’s students. Whether you prefer abstinence or not, that does not mean we need to hide away from learning safe sex.