My Sex Ed Experience in School

by Isabel M.

Isabel is a teen writer who is part of the Females Against Violence Education Group based in San Francisco. We asked this group to write about their thoughts on topics related to pregnancy, contraception, teen health, and teen rights. The thoughts below do not necessarily represent those of the National Center for Youth Law.

My sexual health education has been very interesting but limited. I had sex ed classes in 6th grade and 8th grade at my school. I also got to learn more about sex at Females Against Violence with activities like relationship wheels and charts. My school doesn’t have a sex-ed program, but they offer one class for five days once every other year.

I learned about sex and relationships in my recent sex ed classes at school. I also learned more about relationships in a class I took on social emotional learning. I learned about healthy and unhealthy relationships and how to deal with them if I ever encounter them.

A knowledgeable and sensitive teacher is really important for good sex ed. Current information, education on birth control methods and access, and enough time for questions at the end were really valuable for me. I would like if one of the topics in sex-ed was Health consequences of HIV, other STDs, and pregnancy.

I would also like to learn about body image because many people aren’t comfortable with their body image so that keeps them from having a healthy sexual relationship. The health consequences of STDs and pregnancy would help me be better educated about choices I make in the future.

Have questions about STDs, HIV, and pregnancy? Make sure to take a look at our Youth Legal Guide to answer your questions.

Teens Have a Right to Privacy Too

By Julia A.

Julia is a teen writer who is part of the Females Against Violence Education Group based in San Francisco. We asked this group to write about their thoughts on topics related to pregnancy, contraception, teen health, and teen rights. The thoughts below do not necessarily represent those of the National Center for Youth Law.

Young people have the right to choose what sexual behaviors they engage in, and they also have the right to keep that decision private. But sometimes, young people butt heads with their parents on this issue, who think they know their child well enough to say a teen isn’t ready for a sexual or physical relationship. And by ignoring the fact that young people do engage in sexual behavior sometimes, parents put their teens at risk by not letting them talk about effective ways to protect themselves against STIs and pregnancy.

The truth is, sex may not be as special or as serious to you as it may be to others, and only you can make the choice about the role sex plays in your life.  Sex is normal and healthy, and at whatever age you’re ready to start having it, sex can make a relationship more intimate and fun.  

The fact that I can go to my doctor without worrying about her telling my mom about my sex life is great.  I’m grateful, but should I be?  The right to privacy and confidentiality from your doctor is something all teens are entitled to, but few know about.

Without knowing a doctor cannot tell parents about our sex lives, young women like myself would find themselves with many questions about how to protect themselves, and no one to feel comfortable asking.  Many teens who don’t have a supportive figure like a health care provider or a parent to help them navigate this area, or who don’t get adequate sex ed from school, are left to figure it out (or not) on their own.

What do you think about the right to confidentiality for teens? Would you talk to your doctor more about sex ed? You can learn more about your privacy and confidentiality in the Privacy Section of the Youth Legal Guide.  

When Getting Birth Control Becomes A Challenge

Kayla is a Cell and Molecular Biology major at San Francisco State University. She is an intern/Brand Ambassador for Nurx, an intern for ASI Women’s Center, and a Sexual Health intern for the HPW Health Promotion and Wellness Center Team at SFSU. Her hobbies include writing spoken word poetry and taking care of her two pet chinchillas.

I know from personal experience that obtaining birth control can be daunting and aggravating.

Nearing the end of my senior year of high school, I wanted to get birth control before I entered college. Things were getting more serious with my boyfriend and I also wanted to be protected before entering the college scene. But I had one major roadblock: strict parents.

I began to devise a plan for when I could drive to Planned Parenthood to get birth control without my parents knowing. I used the classic excuse, “I’m hanging out with Danielle today”, which was pretty much the truth since she did come with me for support. I remember feeling so uncomfortable and awkward sitting in the seats in the waiting room surrounded by other people. Why did I feel like everyone was staring at me and judging me? Or was that just paranoia? Why was this so nerve wrecking?

I remember not knowing how to answer some of the questions the woman asked me about my insurance, so I just told her I did not have any. She put me under Family Pact, which allowed the birth control to be free. I left Planned Parenthood with a year’s supply of birth control pills, feeling like I had won the jackpot. Danielle and I giggled in awe at the goodie bag filled health products, including a variety of brightly colored condoms. I felt sneaky and accomplished because I’d succeeded in independently getting birth control without my parent’s knowledge.

A week into taking my pills daily, my parents found out. I wasn’t as sly as I thought I was. My dad found my pills in my purse and became outraged, taking the pills away. My parents shamed me and told me I was not ready. But I knew that was my decision to make.

I went back to Planned Parenthood to get more birth control. But I was unable to get more for free since they already gave me a year’s supply. This time I would have to pay. I paid $30 for only three months, only to go home and have my father steal my birth control for a second time.

I felt helpless and wondered what options were available for girls in situations like me. I faced many difficulties just to obtain my birth control. I felt powerless to protect my body. I felt like no one had any resources to assist me.

It wasn’t until I finally got away from my house that I was able to take control of my reproductive health. As a college student, I discovered there were services out there that would deliver my pills directly to me at school. One of these, the one I found, was Nurx. Using Nurx, I was able to get my birth control delivered to me at college, a safe place where I could receive them and not worry about my parents confiscating them. While I still had to hide the pills from my parents on visits home, I knew that I could, and would, always have a delivery waiting for me at school when I needed it.

While birth control delivery services are great, they won’t do you much good if you live in a super strict household or if your parents check the mail. But they might be a good option for you if you leave home, or if you’re able to get the delivery somewhere that isn’t your house, like a school or work mailbox.

For girls in the same situation as me, it can be a struggle to protect yourself and ensure you get the birth control you need. If you struggle with overly strict parents who think you’re not ready, try to get them on your page by asking your parents to speak with you calmly. Explain that you’re the one making the decision, that it’s your body, and your right to access birth control when you need it. Explain that taking away birth control won’t prevent you from the activities you’re engaging in, and that you’re making a smart, responsible choice by even seeking out birth control in the first place.

If your parents still refuse to let you get the pill on your own, or continue to confiscate your pills when you get them, you can seek out help from another trusted adult, like a school counselor or nurse. You can also look into other birth control options, such as the IUD, patch, injection, or ring, which last longer and don’t require you to take a pill every day. Ultimately it’s your body and your right to choose.

Getting my birth control delivered by Nurx at school was the best solution for me. Once I moved away and figured out an easy way to get birth control delivered to me at school, I finally was able to have the responsibility of controlling my own sexual health. I felt free. I was in control.

You can learn about ways you can prevent pregnancy, and resource you can use to access birth control in California, by visiting our Birth Control section.

On Love, Relationships, Sex, and Protection

This piece was written by Juli K. a youth member of the University of Michigan’s Adolescent Health Initiative’s Teen Advisory Council.  Juli attends Eastern Michigan University and is pursuing a career in social work. Since she was 17, she’s worked for adolescent sexual health under organizations such as Michigan Youth (MY) Voice and Teen Adolescent Championship Teen Advisory Council (TAC TAC). She plans to continue working with adolescent sexual health as part of her social work career. 

Do you ever think about your first love? I often think about mine from high school. Despite how things ended between us, if I had not gone through some of those experiences then I don’t think I would be the person I am today.

When I was 14, being in love was never something I would have imagined happening to me. I would watch The Notebook and The Titanic, silently protesting because I just knew that someone loving me as much as Noah loved Allie or Jack loved Rose wasn’t possible. But if you have seen these classic romance movies, you would know that despite all of the love being given and received, relationships have their consequences. I learned this firsthand with my first loving relationship.

My boyfriend at the time was a few years older than me and had already engaged in sexual activity with previous partners. Although I was always very conscious about taking care of myself, I let my guard down when it came to him. We eventually started engaging in sexual activity ourselves.

When I was 15, we had a condom break. My periods were never regular, so when my period was a few days late I didn’t really worry about it. But after that incident all I could think about was how I wanted my period to come to ease my mind. After a few weeks had passed and I still did not have a period, I sat down and questioned the possibility that I could actually be pregnant. My mom was a teen mom, and I saw how that affected me and my sisters’ lives growing up.

All of a sudden I had to think about things I never dreamed of imagining myself thinking of at 15. How would I tell my mom if I was pregnant? Would I be able to terminate the pregnancy? What if my mom and boyfriend pressured me to keep the child? What would people at school think? All the over-thinking made me nauseous.

A friend of mine picked me up one afternoon and took me to Walmart where I did my pregnancy test in the bathroom. I would not have dared to take it at home; what if my mom found it in my garbage?! So there I was, in a Walmart bathroom, peeing on a stick. I patiently waited while the lines showed up, very clearly showing that I wasn’t pregnant! I was so happy I nearly cried. It was then and there that I decided getting on birth control was something I had to do to protect myself even more if incidents like this did happen again.

Deciding to engage in sexual activity with someone is quite a big decision. It’s important to protect yourself and your partner because unfortunately, being caught in the heat of the moment can actually take a toll on your future. I’m sharing my experience not to scare people from having sex, but to raise awareness about how important it is to have protection and communication between you and your partner. Even if things feel good and right, they can still have long-term consequences that could affect your future.

For more information about your questions around sex and relationships, your rights to birth control and emergency contraception, and information about pregnancy, visit our Youth Legal Guide.

How Can I Prevent Pregnancy?

You can prevent pregnancy by getting birth control from a health care provider before you have sex and using that birth control in the correct way. You can also pick up condoms from a health care provider or pharmacy.

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When to Test

Timing is important – if you take a pregnancy test too early, it might show a negative result (not pregnant) even if you are pregnant!

To get an accurate pregnancy test result, you should take the test:

  • 14 days after you had sex, or
  • at least one day after your period is late.

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If I want an abortion, when should I have one?

The earlier the better when it comes to abortions.

It’s best to have the abortion as early in the pregnancy as possible. Almost all abortions are done in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Early abortions are safer and cheaper, and it is easier to find a doctor or clinic to do it.

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