Let’s Talk about Sex…Education. Teens Know Best | Thea Holcomb | TEDxSaltLakeCity


Translator: Dieu Dang NguyenTran
Reviewer: Peter van de Ven Greetings audience,
I’m Thea, I’m a high school student, and today we’re going to talk about sex. [It won’t be too scary.] Operating on the assumption you’re human,
you’ve certainly heard of sex. In case you haven’t,
to get you up to speed, sex is the process
by which many organisms ensure their continued existence. Here’s the thing though: sex is more complicated than that because – spoiler alert! –
humans are complicated. So how do we learn about sex
if it’s so complicated? You might remember
sex education like this: [Don’t have sex;
you will get PREGNANT and die.] Urban Dictionary – your source
for news and information about the 21st century zeitgeist –
describes sex education as: “.. where they try to
scare you out of having sex with pictures of diseased genitals…” A more hopeful description
of sex education would be something like: a lifelong process of learning
about sex and sexuality, exploring values and beliefs
and gaining skills to navigate relationships
and manage your sexual health. This, as far as I’m concerned,
is a solid definition. So what can we do to make
sex education something that teens find
actually, like, educational. Clearly, teens need answers
to their questions. Where do people go
when they have questions? [The Internet] Listen, I love the Internet. It’s one of the greatest developments
in human information exchange. [Yes. Thanks Internet.] But what it says about sexual health is not accurate by any
stretch of the imagination or is so laden with bias that it feels
more like being pelted with judgement than actually receiving information. Unfortunately, not every teen
is willing and able to chat it up with
their parents about sex. So if not always the Internet,
where can teens turn? Enter the peer educator. People my age do, indeed,
talk to each other about sex. So when teens are sources
of accurate information, it spreads among us quickly. As a peer educator, I belong to a program that gives me the tools
to learn about everything from STIs and safe sex
to contraception and consent. Basically, I can tell you more about
human sexuality than the average adult. When teens see someone like me
instead of someone older, they’re quite open to the information
I have to offer them. At lunch once, some friends
wanted to know the difference between hormonal and copper IUDs. So I brought this to the table. Another day, my teacher didn’t understand
how emergency contraception works. So I explained it to the class. What does it look like when teens
ask me questions about sexual health? It goes something like this. Venereal disease, STD, STI?
This terminology, it baffles me. STI stands for sexually
transmitted infection. We used to say STD, which stood
for sexually transmitted disease, but it was changed recently because STI is a more
medically accurate term, and taking away
the big scary word “disease” helps decrease stigma. What the heck is trichomoniasis? Well, trichomoniasis is a STI usually
spread through vaginal intercourse. It’s curable with just
one dose of an oral drug. Common symptoms,
regardless of a person’s sex, are unusual discharge,
painful urination and itching. But it spreads really quickly because most of the time
it’s asymptomatic, which means people
don’t realize they have it. That’s why it’s so important
to get tested regularly. Is it OK to be gay? Yes, all people of all identities
and backgrounds, including on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, can live healthy and productive lives. Regardless of your beliefs, everyone has the right to explore
and express their sexuality without the fear of shame or judgement. Thanks! So often, when my peers approach me
with questions like these, seeking this or that piece of information, at least a sliver of what they’re
wondering is: “Am I normal?” So let’s talk about normal. Part of the point of peer education is to give teens
the opportunity to understand that there is no such thing
as the elusive “normal.” Peer educators are here to say
they’re armed with information that empowers you
to make informed decisions; you are going to be OK. “Normal” isn’t really necessary. When you can get accurate, judgement-free information
from your peers, you realize that sex-ed
doesn’t have to be scary. So instead of striving to be normal, let’s talk to each other. Since peer education allows sex-ed
to reach the community in ways that go far beyond
pictures of diseased genitals, it turns out to be pretty brilliant. An idea that, unlike trichomoniasis,
is certainly worth spreading.

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