February 12th, 2006 07:49 EST
Education Begins at Home
Many people are guilty of subscribing to the phrase “no one is going to buy the cow when they can get the milk for free.”
Yet, throughout my adolescence, no such farm-animal-analogies were referenced- though my mother made one point consistently clear: “you don’t want to be a cow with a venereal disease.”
My mother inflates condoms in front of a captive audience for a living. Yes, my mother has dedicated her career to high school sexual education. As a result, by the time I was fourteen, I had developed an understanding that if mom was not spouting off the latest ecstasy statistic or talking about health food, then contraceptives, Chlamydia, and the Clap were all fair game.
Since my mother taught at a suburban high school, I inevitably encountered her former pupils at DePaul. While I anticipated running into past students, I was not prepared to form friendships with them. When I did, the off hand ‘your mother’ jokes escalated to an outlandish level. I feared the subject of gonorrhea arising in conversations, because comments like “Lauren’s mom knows all about gonorrhea” would eventually emerge.
Throughout puberty, I adamantly felt that parental sex-ed was exercised at the student’s expense. However, looking back I cannot help but acknowledge the advantages associated with my mother’s openness. While many of my peers were sexually active in high school, most of their parents naively assumed they were abstinent; thus, leaving all education, in terms of safe sex, up to the public school system. My mother was talking about birth control prior to my peers’ parents, and to this day I can attribute my giant uterus poster to her, which I received after my first class of ‘human-growth-and-development’ in junior high.
Long before I came to college, discussing condoms, or sex for that matter, was far from taboo. So last spring, when I attended a rally in Washington D.C. with the DePaul AIDS Project, my mother needed to hear every detail.
In D.C., we heard numerous testimonies from AIDS victims, and one clear, widespread theme ran through each: Diseases do not discriminate. While one person may engage in unprotected sex and remain disease free, someone else could contract a sexually transmitted disease within the confines of a long-term monogamous relationship. Regardless of sexual orientation, socio-economic status, political ideology, or any other societal label, AIDS can target any sexually active individual. Though questioning my mortality during sexual decisions is far from easy, it is completely necessary, because ignorance in terms of survival will never be bliss.
Given that AIDS fails to distinguish between demographics, it is difficult for me to understand why this issue is at all polarized in America. From the right, we have conservatives calling for abstinence propaganda, while liberals suggest an overhaul of sex-ed curriculum. If abstinence were a universal value, then the latter method would be unnecessary. No sex, no diseases, no babies, no problem! In reality, this is hardly the case.
On an international level, the Bush administration has allowed America’s conservative-sex sentiments to carry over into areas of foreign policy. Developing nations must endorse morals that are culturally specific to the Christian right, in order for our government to show any fiscal accountability for AIDS treatment funding. Specifically, unless nations agree to a policy banning prostitution, they will not receive any aid from the United States to curb this problem. In doing this, our government fails to consider the fact that in many destitute nations, citizens look to sexual solicitation as a means of survival. For many women, when they compare the potential risks of prostitution and the certain fatality associated with extreme poverty, they often see the sex trade as the lesser of two evils.
In any case, how can these individuals possibly assert that saving sex for the ‘sanctity of marriage’ is the superior choice, or for that matter, an option at all? By allowing westernized cultural and moral standards to dictate what demographics receive U.S. AIDS relief, our government is contributing to the problem and not the solution.
Too often, as young adults in America, we take our capacity to comprehend sexual risks for granted. We are bombarded with AIDS statistics and pro-abstinence propaganda, but we rarely consider the real dangers on a personal level. Young people need to be just as conscious of the gamble associated with sex, as they are in a hand of Texas hold’em; resisting the urge to go ‘all-in’ when the cards are too perilous to play. Overall, we must learn to appreciate the choices we are allotted; specifically, the freedom to practice sex as a protected, educated adult.
On DePaul’s campus, the topic of condom distribution has been subject to debate as well. Yes, students with easy access to condoms would be more apt to make use of them. Still, considering DePaul’s identification with Catholicism, it will take a significant amount of time for the University to approve, let alone implement, such a program. Instead, we need to realize that a large portion of adulthood involves assuming some personal responsibility, and sexual health is no exception.
We invest considerable time and money in our education. Why not spend a little money on condoms and a little time learning about sexual responsibility? Still, it must be clear that this responsibility does not begin and end with the use of a condom. Even with consistent, correct condom usage, many young people are still victims of STDs, such as HPV. Many people contract this virus without symptoms, assuming that the absence of symptoms implies the absence of a problem. However, without treatment, women are significantly more prone to cervical cancer, and many females are unaware of this risk.
Considering the average time a DePaul student spends reading, studying, or writing papers, why not direct a portion of that time to gaining an understanding about various responsibilities associated with adulthood?
Recently, a councilman in the Columbian city of Tulua proposed a law requiring men above age fourteen to carry a condom, or receive a $180 fine. Like DePaul, I doubt that Columbia’s predominantly Catholic culture will support this legislation. Still, the thought of a pro-condom-police-brigade on DePaul’s campus, really brings a smile to my face. When I ponder who could potentially play a similar contraceptive-enforcement-role on DePaul’s campus, one person clearly comes to mind: my mother. She would fly through the quad like a super hero, filling my peers’ heads with safe sexual knowledge, and their pockets with condoms.
From considering my mother’s expertise, I must admit that I have reaped benefits far beyond the uterus poster presently on display in my Sanctuary town home. Now, I can appreciate the humor associated with her career and simply say: “Yeah, my mother knows all about gonorrhea. What does your mom know?”