I just graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree, and as a young man I’m ready for the next stage in my life. I’m ready to move out for the first time; I’m ready to start my career; I’m ready to take risks and seize every opportunity I can.
I’m not ready for a kid, however, and I certainly wasn’t ready for the past four years.
Sex education is about making choices that will protect you — and your partners — your whole life.
I’ve been in a couple of serious relationships during my college years, and I practiced safe sex consistently. I wanted to throw myself into my work and not into raising a child. Even though my partners were on birth control, I always used condoms because you can never be too safe.
Birth control isn’t only a concern for women, it’s a concern for us guys too. The way I saw it was if I didn’t want to have a child in the immediate future, then it was my responsibility to do what I could to make sure that didn’t happen. I didn’t even have to worry about the price of condoms either, because the Planned Parenthood health center near my school offered them for free.
I’m thankful I had easy access to birth control methods, because I wouldn’t have been able to do what I’ve done without it. If you aren’t ready to have a child, then don’t risk it by placing the burden for birth control entirely on your partner’s shoulders. Take matters into your own hands by finding a contraceptive method that works for you, so you and your partner can share that responsibility.
A lot of guys think that if their girlfriends or wives are on birth control, there is no reason for them to use condoms anymore. But the birth control pill is only 91 percent effective when used typically, and condoms are 82 percent effective when used typically. When you’re certain you want to avoid a pregnancy, neither of those numbers might seem high enough — but that’s why doubling up on birth control is such a great idea. By using condoms, a guy can do his part to help close the gap between the Pill’s 91 percent effectiveness and near-perfect protection. When used together, the birth control pill and condom are more than 98 percent effective — and that’s just with typical use. You can boost that number even higher by learning to how use your chosen method of contraception properly.
And learning the correct use of birth control is a vital, but too often neglected, part of our education. I spent the past four years of my life studying journalism at college, and before that I spent four years at a college preparatory school. So I was quite prepared for college and I learned a lot while I was there.
But not once in those eight years did I ever learn about sex. I didn’t learn that the pull out method (aka withdrawal) doesn’t eliminate the chance of pregnancy. I didn’t learn that no birth control method is 100 percent effective. I honestly didn’t learn anything about STDs until after I turned 21 and I started volunteering at Planned Parenthood. And I didn’t know anything about condoms whatsoever (how to put them on, how they should fit, etc.). I didn’t know you were supposed to pinch the tip to create a reservoir or even how tight they should feel on me.
Thankfully, my parents talked to me about sex and protection, so I at least had the basics — even though it was more of a taboo topic and I didn’t feel comfortable asking for more than the small bit that they told. All that I learned from my parents (since school taught me nothing) was that sex makes babies happen, and using a condom stops it. That is not nearly as much as I should have known, and luckily I didn’t pay for any of the mistakes I made due to my lack of sexual education.
Here I am growing up with two loving parents and going to reputable schools, and I learned almost nothing about sexual health, even though neglecting it could seriously hurt me — so I ended up doing most of my learning on the Internet because I couldn’t go to my parents or my schools with any questions I had. My friends at the time weren’t of any help either, considering that even with the unguided research I had done I was far more knowledgeable than them. It seems like their parents were a bit hesitant to educate them too.
That all changed when I became an intern at Planned Parenthood Arizona during my last semester of college. I learned so much these past few months, first as an intern and now as a volunteer, and I encourage others to use the resources they provide. From free condoms to services that are covered both by insurance and sliding-scale services via Title X, Planned Parenthood can help. It is also good to note for college students that if you are afraid of your campus health bill being sent to your parents, Planned Parenthood is a way of avoiding that.
Birth control helped me pursue my goals without the stress of an unintended pregnancy interrupting my plans for my future. My hope is that by writing this article, at least someone out there will seek the tools and knowledge they need to make responsible choices they wouldn’t have otherwise. Sexual education is more than just your sex life, it’s about making choices that will protect you — and your partners — your whole life.