I Need Sex Ed

I need sex ed because I was in a sexually abusive relationship when I was 16. I grew up in a Catholic household and had gone to Catholic elementary and middle schools where sex and contraception, much less the idea of healthy and consensual relationships, were not discussed. Christianity was not at fault, but the culture of silence around sexuality was. I was ashamed and confused about my first sexual experiences even when they were consensual. I was even more ashamed and confused when they turned into something that was not at all what I wanted. My perception of what was normal and healthy in a relationship did not come from adults (parents or teachers or anyone trained to teach me), but rather from other adolescents who were just as clueless about sex as I was. And from the media, which, like my peers, taught me that sex is for boys and boys alone. At 16, though I am sure I had heard the word "rape," I had no idea what non-consensual sex looked like or even that it was something that could happen to me or anyone I knew. I never learned to listen to my voice, whether that voice was saying yes or no. I never learned that there are so many sexual acts that come between and around kissing and intercourse, and that having those acts forced upon you is also rape. When I experienced sexual violence, I thought it was normal. It wasn't until, months into being assaulted almost every single day, I shared what was happening to me with a friend and he said, "That's illegal." It wasn't until a year after the assault ended that I told the school about it, but they called it "bullying." And a year after that, I had to watch my rapist graduate from my high school with honors and several academic awards and go on to attend a prestigious university with no trace of his actions on any sort of permanent record. What he did will never permanently affect him, but it will ALWAYS permanently affect me. I need sex ed because I am still told that I wasn't "raped," that I'm not allowed to use that word to describe what happened to me. I need sex ed because people still don't know what rape is and the various ways it can happen to a person. I need sex ed because too many other women that I know were also in first (and second and third and umpteenth) relationships where the sexual experiences they had were not consensual and they, like me, didn't have the tools or vocabulary to identify or address what was happening. I need sex ed because I am almost 23 years old and I still cannot have a healthy sexual relationship with others or myself because of what happened to me. I need sex ed because despite sharing my story and participating in the consent advocacy community, I am still ashamed about what happened to me. My rapist was manipulative and violent--he hurt me and, yes, he raped me. But he was also 15. And maybe with proper sex ed, he wouldn't have made it to adolescence thinking that what he did was the right way to treat a partner or that his actions were representative of love. Maybe with proper sex ed, I would have been able to identify what was happening to me and advocate for myself in a more effective way. Maybe if my high school had internalized sex ed as a priority, they wouldn't have allowed a rapist to stay on their campus. Maybe with more prominent and consent-focused sex ed in the future, situations like mine can be few and far between. Silence perpetuates rape culture, not only on college campuses, but ESPECIALLY with preteens and adolescents. It is our duty to educate the future about sex. Thank you, YES!, for listening to my story and for providing a platform for me to speak about my experiences without shame. I hope that sharing my story can help people, especially young girls, know that their experiences are valid and that their voices matter. Thank you for the work that you do in educating young people about sex and consent.

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