You may not know this about me, but I do a lot of work in my real life with sex education and promoting safer-sex practices (i.e. getting people to use condoms). Some of you may even recall that The S Spot got it’s start as an educational sex column in a campus newspaper!
I feel that when you’re talking to someone about sex, you can’t just try to scare them with the facts about Sexually transmitted infections, HIV, and how accidental pregnancy will “ruin your life”; but a lot of sex educators focus on just that.
I remember one time when I picked up my younger brother from school, I asked him about his day and he told me that there had been an assembly about sex ed. I asked him if he had learned anything interesting and if he had any questions about anything they talked about (figuring that he might be more comfortable talking to me, his older sibling rather than a “real” adult like mom or dad). He did have a few comments about funny things the teachers had said and how uncomfortable many of them had looked. Then he said, “I didn’t know that condoms don’t protect you from infections or AIDS”.
I was flabbergasted. I pressed him for more details – there are some diseases that a condom might not protect you from (depending on where the sores/outbreak is occurring) – but I still wanted to know “what exactly did they tell you?”
My brother then went on to explain how the presentation had showed slides with microscopic views of condoms, revealing that they are full of little holes that might stop sperm but wouldn’t stop infection or disease transmission. “So”, he concluded, “in that case, I don’t see the point of using them.”
I was stunned and very disappointed – not only had this “safe sex” presentation focused only on the negative risks (nothing about the positive things about having sex), but they had outright lied to these junior high and high school kids in an effort to make them even more scared of having sex.
Ironically, depending on how many other students left the presentation with the same attitude as my brother (“if condoms don’t protect me, why bother using them?”), they actually did MORE damage than if they had said nothing at all!
I took a detour on the way home so that I would have enough time to explain to my brother what was wrong with what he had been told at school that day. I explained to him about how condoms work, why some girls are on the pill, what kinds of infections there are to be concerned about, what other forms of barriers exist, etc – anything I could think of that a young almost-man might need to know about the sometimes tricky world we live in. But I also told him that the reason why he needs to know all these things about how to protect himself, is because sex is fun and when he meets the right girl he’s going to want to try it. I told him that I wanted him to know these things so that when the time came when he wanted to have sex, he wouldn’t have to worry, because he would know what to do. He would know that he should use a condom, where to get one, that buying them is nothing to be ashamed of, how to put one on – and then he would be ready to have fun.
Not every student who attended that presentation had a “cool” older sister who was willing to take the time to explain the correct information about birth control, STI’s, and prophylactics. So what happens to these unlucky kids? Do they go out into the world having unprotected sex until they get infected with something serious? Do they end up at university and read someone who writes a newspaper column like mine? Maybe, once they’re older, they end up at The S Spot and find the answer to their questions.
Or, if they’re clever (and connected to the internet) they’ll find a site like Scarleteen!
Scarleteen is a pretty bad-ass site where anyone (though they cater to teens) can go to learn more about sex and to find support for their issues, concerns, and questions. You can read more about them HERE. Scarleteen is the cool older brother/sister who is there to give teens honest and open information about sex – the negative aspects (like STIs) and the positive aspects too (like the fun – woo!).
The weird thing is, Scarleteen is the highest ranked online young adult sexuality resource but it’s the least funded! Since the youth who need this site most are also the least able to donate, they are calling on people who CAN afford to donate.
What Scarleteen Needs: Last year, Scarleteen needed increased donations in order to get through the end of 2009 and into 2010, in large part because private donations for a few years previous had been so low and left us in a very financially precarious position. We increased our financial goals to reflect the need for a minimum annual operating budget of $70,000. Thanks to generous contributions from our supporters in response to that appeal, while we were not able to reach that level, we were able to raise what we needed to not only get through 2009, but were able to use the funds wisely to sustain the organization through 2010. Our goal now is to continue to work toward that annual operating budget. Ideally, we would like to see a minimum of $20,000 in individual donations each year to combine with funding from private grants. In order for that to happen, we need for current donors to keep giving, and we also also need to cultivate new donors.
This minimum budget is exceptionally cost-effective for the level of service we provide, especially compared to other organizations and initiatives whose budgets are far higher, including those which do not match our reach and our level of direct-service. If you would like more details about our budget and expenses, just contact us via email and we’ll gladly share that information with you.
A $100 donation can pay half of our server bill for a month, or half the monthly cost of the text-in service, or can fund any kind of use of the site, including one-on-one counsel and care, for around 10,000 of our daily users. However, we very much appreciate donations at any level.
If you can, support Scarleteen by clicking the banner below:
BTW, I do still answer reader questions – if you have a question about sex or relationships, feel free to email me about it.