Catholic Schools Need Better Sex Ed


(Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram)

By Eliot Schiaparelli

As a long time Catholic school girl, I can attest that many of the stereotypes about private Catholic schools are true. My classmates and I would go without leggings under our skirts in subzero weather, I had at least one teacher who didn’t believe in evolution and we had no sexual education whatsoever.

In the interest of full disclosure, my school was an independent Catholic school that was separated from the archdiocese.
We were co-ed and the only nuns in the building were dead and buried in our chapel. That being said, I took four years of religion classes and went to mass every other week (despite being very protestant). When it came to sex ed, what little of it we had was incorporated into those religion classes.

Instead of coming from the classroom, the majority of my sex education came from reading fanfiction, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Sites like Wattpad and took characters and celebrities and wrote them into stories of compromising sexual situations. Not everything on those sites is sexual, but a lot of it is.

To outline the sex ed curriculum at my school will take roughly three sentences. In eighth grade religion class we watched a video about pregnancy, but my teacher let us leave the room if we thought the actual birth part would be too disturbing. Sophomore year, a different religion teacher did a unit on relationships. She focused entirely on heterosexual relationships and abstinence.

During the exact class where she talked about love and marriage, she drew a line down the middle of the board and had girls write ideal male traits on one side and boys write ideal female traits on the other. LGBTQ friends later told me how difficult it was to express their ideas in this environment.

A close friend who went to an all-girls Catholic school tells an even more ridiculous story about her sex ed. They had an assembly where police officers talked about sexual assault before the school’s prom. The officer referenced digital penetration, and my friend and her classmates were confused.

The officer then held up a hand and said “ladies, these are your digits,” pointing to her fingers. Beyond abstinence only sex ed that equated all men to Ted Bundy, this assembly was extent of their education.

Luckily for me, my parents were always open with us in questions surrounding sex. For example, when I was three-years-old and asked where my younger brother came from they told me. Many other families are not as candid as mine, so it falls to schools to fill in these gaps.

An article from The Atlantic talks about this phenomenon. The author wrote, “In my interviews with young women, I heard too many iterations to count of ‘he did something I didn’t like that I later learned is a staple in porn,’ choking being one widely cited example.”

A study of sex ed in 48 U.S. states by the National Institute of Health (NIH) indicated that abstinence education does not cause abstinent behavior. States the emphasized abstinence only sex ed averaged roughly 73 teenage pregnancies per 1,000 women, while states that included abstinence in comprehensive sex ed averaged only 56 pregnancies per 1,000 women.

A 2017 CDC study of high school students showed that among those who had engaged in sexual activities in the past three months 46 percent did not use a condom.

Even Pope Francis spoke on sex ed.

“I believe that we must provide sex education in schools,” Pope Francis responded to a question on the subject from a reporter. “Sex is a gift from God, it is not a monster, it is a gift from God, in order to love.”

To reiterate, I am extremely grateful for the Catholic school education that I received and I think I turned out okay, but I wish Catholic schools would make it easier for their students to understand sex and how to do it safely and enjoyably.