In 1948, in a seventh grade classroom in Eugene, Oregon, a teacher dimmed the lights and flipped on 16mm projector. A film called Human Growth began to play and for 20 minutes, a fictional teacher explained the human reproductive system while animated sperm and ovum flickered onscreen.
Last week, I came across a very strange comic book: in 1976, Planned Parenthood teamed up with Marvel to publish a one-off comic in which Spider-Man defends America's youth from misleading sex education.
Being the queerio I am, I have this pass time of regularly Googling queer sex related topics in the news for fun. Hey, who knows, maybe there's some new sex toy I need to learn about #possibleTMI. Well this time, I stumbled across some less-than-awesome news: black women are less likely to get HPV Vaccines than other demographics. According to new research, only 18 percent of black women from 18 to 24 have gotten the vaccine, as opposed to over 30 percent of white women.
If your sexual education was anything like mine, every few years you and your peers were rallied into crowded classrooms, separated by gender, and were schooled on the happenings of your body. By the time you were in high school, you may have been fortunate enough to receive some vague and heteronormative information about STIs and how abstinence is the best (and only) form of birth control. Problematic? Yeah.
Saiya Miller and Liza Bley thought so, too, and compiled a collection of comics over the course of five years to educate others on sexuality in a far more inclusive and honest manner. The comics and stories are frank and real, free of the sugar coating that pervades the typical two-day sexual education courses rampant in U.S. public schools.
The news on reproductive rights this year has not been good. Texas is shutting down health clinics, Ohio is forcing women to get an ultrasound before they get an abortion, Oklahoma is trying to restrict teens from buying Plan B over the counter—the country's reproductive options are generally going to hell in a Republican handbasket.
But there's one area of reproductive health that has been quietly and steadily improving for years: reducing teen pregnancies. During the last years of the Bush administration, the teen birth rate rose for the first time since 1992. But from 2007-2011 (the four most recent years the experts crunched the numbers), the trend swiftly reversed and the teen birth rate nationwide dropped a whopping 25 percent.
The reasons behind the drop are much more complex than just statistics on birth control use and funding for sex education—looking only at the dollars and data ignores the fact that we all learn about sex from the culture around us.
Since it debuted in 2011, the U by Kotex brand of pads and tampons (aimed at pre-teens) has made its mark with funny commercials and frank talk about periods. But recently, Kotex has decided to launch a part of their site that addresses period myths and the general lack of awareness many pre-teens have about their bodies. Their latest campaign, Generation Know, offers a site where girls can anonymously ask questions about periods and get answers from experts, peers, and moms. And holy cow, are these girls misguided.
I mean...there are no "wrong" questions when it comes to the complexities of the female body, and a lot of the questions are pretty basic (like "what happens during a pelvic exam?"). But some are a truly frightening demonstration of the absolute lack of information that young girls get when it comes to matters of their own health.