By Megan Sims, NCJW Legislative Intern
The first condoms I ever possessed came from an activities fair at Harvard’s admitted students weekend. I justified the acquisition on the grounds that the wrappers had good puns (for the record, these were One Condoms, my favorite brand). I kept them in my purse for months, feeling like a proud beacon of safe sex wandering the halls of my conservative Christian high school in Dallas.
Despite the religious morality foregrounding my secondary education, I still count myself as one of the lucky ones. Our teachers never addressed issues of consent, didn’t take seriously topics of sexual assault and harassment, and never got close to LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning) issues. I remember a classmate’s mother even once insisted that “we don’t have gay people here” (oh honey, do I have news for you…). But at least we talked about birth control. We got the uncomfortable presentations, the condoms on the wooden penises, the clear plastic vagina models. Luckily, my synagogue went further, delving deeply into some of the tougher issues and questions surrounding sexual health.
Despite the Supreme Court’s hold on the recent 5th Circuit Court ruling upholding severe regulations on abortion clinics, many of which provide much-needed contraceptive services, Texas’ prevailing abstinence-only-until-marriage school curriculum standards and clear judicial attitudes are already leaving many young people in the lurch. Without access to contraception and without education to properly use it, Texas youth are suffering at the hands of a system that glorifies abstinence and shames any other choice. The conversations we aren’t having lead us right to the mistakes we often don’t know we’re making.
My decision to seek out free condoms was a conscious and deliberate one. I was seeking out the people who understand that birth control should be accessible to anyone and everyone regardless of location or financial status. I was seeking out those who don’t believe that sex is something that should be hidden away in the backs of school district filing cabinets and in the sock drawers of nervous teenagers.
My condom search led me to the board, and now presidency, of Sexual Health Education and Advocacy Throughout Harvard College. Our organization puts on an annual sex week in which we hold events dealing with various topics of sexual health, sex ed, and sex practices. This year’s sex week garnered us quite a bit of media attention when a student called our Anal Sex 101 event “downright vulgar.” This student clearly didn’t understand that the event was targeted towards LGBT youth who have likely never been able to have open conversations about safe, healthy sex practices.
Questioning the allocation of university resources for sex education related events are symptomatic of a larger problem. We are still scared to talk sex. But if we can’t talk about sex, how can we discuss the ways to make it safer?
In light of the current #BirthControlHelpedMe media campaign, I’m proud to declare that birth control helped me get to where I am, getting an incredible education, becoming a leader, and working this summer with NCJW to expand access to contraception for all women. My good fortune in this matter, though, should not be a privilege. Every person should have the right to choose when and if they have sex or raise a family, and they should know the best and healthiest ways to do so.
Join the conversation. Tweet @NCJW using the #BirthControlHelpedMe to share your own story.