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Young People and Comprehensive Sex Education: Moving Beyond Scare Tactics and Fear Mongering in 2012

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Written by Andrew Jenkins for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the  original post.

Knowledge is power.

I mean that in the most cliché way possible. Without knowledge, agency and self-determination become meaningless fragments of our imagination. Something that we desperately wish for but can’t quite grab onto.

This is especially true when it comes to young people.

Growing up in the United States is like playing a foucauldian game of discipline and punish. Disciplined by a morally bankrupt narrative about sex and sexuality and then punished for daring to question it.

I guess we shouldn’t be all that surprised. When young people are subjugated and disenfranchised, systems of power thrive. When we’re alienated from our bodies and fearful of our sexuality, we lack the resources and agency necessary to become responsible agents of social and political change. Suffice it to say; those in power have a vested interest in dislocating the nation's youth from real sex education.

For young people, sexuality is undoubtedly the most politicized site of social control. Parents fear it. Politicians debate over it. Scientists study it. Intellectuals theorize over it. Everyone is talking about it; yet, no one is talking to young people.

It doesn’t take a semester of reading Michel Foucault to understand that sexuality is an important site of power. Young people know very intimately the role that sex and sexuality play in our daily lives and we know the detrimental consequences that a sex-phobic culture has on our futures. We’re experiencing it first-hand.

Attacks on birth control. Abstinence-only programs. Sexist gender roles. Compulsive heterosexuality and homophobia. Misinformation about abortion. Age restrictions on emergency contraception. Sexual assault. Negative representations of teen motherhood. Public health initiatives that securitize youth sexuality.

We have experienced the damaging effects of a culture that stigmatizes sexuality and shames young people for exploring our own bodies.

And we’re sick of it.

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