Late last month I interviewed a woman who was 19 when she contracted the herpes simplex virus (HSV1) genitally while still identifying as a virgin. Yahoo News says that “No one ever told me you could contract an STD by [having] oral sex,” she said. “I thought I was being responsible, because I was saving myself for marriage…I come from a very religious background, and that’s what I was taught. Good girls don’t practice safe sex; they don’t have sex until marriage.”
“Coming to terms with the realization that there were still risks, despite abstaining from vaginal intercourse, this young woman now knows she was lacking some basic knowledge that she needed to make informed decisions about her sexual health.What would have helped her? Comprehensive sex education would have helped.
“We weren’t told about that stuff,” she told me. “Sex ed was literally a bunch of kids giggling about gross slides and our teacher telling us not to do it. Some of us even signed a paper saying we wouldn’t until we were married. So I only had oral sex, and look where that got me.” Now 23, she wishes she’d been armed with a comprehensive sexual education program, as opposed to the abstinence-only approach she received from her high school in South Carolina.
“When I asked her if she thought more thorough sex education in school would have influenced her behavior, she replied enthusiastically. “Yes, definitely! It’s not like I didn’t listen to or respect my teachers. I just didn’t know. I mean, no one told us to use some kind of barrier with oral sex; they didn’t want us to have sex at all. Why would they tell us how to do it safely?”