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.  

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.

Finding Birth Control Through Planned Parenthood

Tyler S is a senior at SF State, graduating in May with a B.S in Health Education. She works as a lifeguard and swim instructor for the city of San Francisco. In her free time, she likes to go hiking, walk her dog, and go rock climbing.

When I was about 15 ½ I decided I was ready to have sex with my boyfriend at the time. We used condoms for a while and then decided it was time for me to be on birth control. I did not want to ask my parents because I was not sure how they would have reacted and I did not want to get in trouble with them.

So instead an older friend and my boyfriend recommended I go to Planned Parenthood. They told me they would give me birth control for free and it be confidential so my parents couldn’t find out. So we went and waited and I was able to go on birth control.

The whole experience was a bit nerve racking but my friend and boyfriend came with me so that definitely calmed my nerves. Also the people at the Planned Parenthood were so understanding. My parents had not found out that I was having sex or on birth control for a long time; I think I was about 17 when they found out. Turns out my mom was really chill about it and kind of bummed that I did not tell her. Though she was happy that I was protected and taking birth control.

Click here for more resources and information about accessing and using birth control.

Why Confidentiality Matters for Teens

By Sierra Freeman

Confidentiality. This word is so important to me now as a 22-year-old woman. But I hadn’t always paid much attention to it. Why is confidentiality so important to me now? Let me backtrack to the first time it ever became relevant to my own life.

I was a sophomore in high school and I had just become sexually active with my first boyfriend. Everything was so new to me and I didn’t know much about sexual health. For the most part, things had been going smoothly until one night when a condom broke during sex and I freaked out. I had never anticipated this happening.

Immediately so many questions started going through my head. Who am I going to tell? Does this mean I am automatically pregnant? Seriously, what do I do right now? My sexual education was very primitive at the time; I seriously didn’t know the answer to these questions. I remember my boyfriend spoke to his sister, who then told me about Plan B, the emergency contraceptive that you take after having unprotected sex. All of a sudden I had this moment of relief knowing that there would be people I could talk to. However, instant panic came over me again when I thought about having to ask my parents for money or for help making an appointment. This is where confidentiality came in to save me.

Reflecting now, I realized that when you are young, you don’t feel that you can be treated as an individual with your own experiences, thoughts, and concerns. Health was not something I felt in control of in my life. I was still looking to my parents to schedule appointments for me and to provide advice or to handle my health problems. However, the moment I was faced with a problem that I didn’t feel comfortable sharing with them, I freaked out because I didn’t realize that I had confidential support.

After the incident, I reached out to my boyfriend’s sister and a couple of my closest friends, who helped me feel supported and safe. They directed me to Planned Parenthood and went with me without my parent’s knowledge. I was able to get the services I needed and all of my questions and concerns were answered. I felt safe in doing so and for the first time, I was able to speak with adults about reproductive health and the options that I had as well as how to pay for it.

I never realized, until that moment, that it my sexual health was something I had always wanted to talk about, just not with my mom in the doctor’s office. In my case, Planned Parenthood was my first taste of receiving confidential services that were so crucial to me at the time. As young adults, we have the right to confidentiality. At first, I felt slightly shameful, like I was being dishonest to my parents. However, I am proud of myself for taking control of my health and my body. If there is any advice I could give to my teen self, it would be that confidentiality is my right and not something I should EVER feel bad about.

Visit our Privacy Section of the Youth Legal Guide to learn more about your rights to confidential health care.  

Thinking about Drinking?

This piece was written by Tommy L., a youth member of the University of Michigan’s Adolescent Health Initiative’s Teen Advisory Council

During spring break of my junior year in high school, my parents were out of town so I had the excuse to go out very late at night. I decided to go to a party. Like, those parties.

Growing up in a pretty traditional house, I was always fascinated by parties. I never had the chance to go to any, or even go out late at night. I was curious about drinking because many of my friends talked about how good it felt when you were drunk, how much fun they had, and how partying kids were cool like college kids. Teens enjoy trying new things, and I was no exception. I didn’t want to miss out or be an outcast.

As soon as I arrived at the party house, quite a few people were holding bottles of alcohol or small glass cups. They were acting strangely. One drunk girl was being extremely aggressive–she pushed a guy, who was not drunk, onto the couch and jumped on him. Then she kissed him vigorously. I didn’t think they made a mutual consent before the kiss, but the guy went along with it anyway. After they made out for a while, the guy wanted to stop. But the girl was still blacked out and didn’t let him move. Eventually, they went upstairs and continued in a room.

This was shocking to me at the time. Even as an outsider, the scene I observed made me feel uncomfortable. In my mind, I was expecting my friends to simply chat and have a good time, but in reality, there was so much sexual tension among the group. I left the party early with another friend, and I told my parents later about what I saw. We had a nice conversation about how drugs and alcohol influence sex, which strengthened our relationship and shrank the generation gap. This experience is incredibly valuable to me because I finally communicated with my parents. I realize that escaping reality through alcohol to a state of unconsciousness is relaxing, but alcohol leads to so many unexpected events and consequences that I am not ready to take the risk for.

Want to know more about how you can stay safe in a party situation or beyond? Visit our Staying Safe section of the Youth Legal Guide. 

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