Let’s talk about sex(ual education)

Ever since the Kavanaugh hearing, I’ve heard some people saying that maybe he shouldn’t be held completely accountable because he was “just a confused teen who didn’t know any better”. The problem is that he definitely should’ve known better.

How to respectfully treat women or men is something that we should learn not just from our parents and siblings, but from the high schools we attend that teach us about nearly everything else.

After a friend of mine cancelled an Uber because the driver was a guy, I realized that lots of boys have no idea what the experience of being a girl today is like. Without this experience along with watching certain TV shows or having a sister, I would have never known that girls constantly have to think about how to keep themselves safe from “creepy guys”.

Every girl or guy that I’ve talked to has said that they or someone close to them has experienced some form sexual harassment. These occurrences might be a lot more common than most of us are willing to admit.

At my elementary school (shoutout McKenzie), we always used to dedicate time to a program called Second Step, which was meant to make us more sympathetic in efforts to reduce bullying.

While Second Step was no longer a part of our schedules once we hit middle school, we still had assemblies that discussed bullying and how to prevent it, and in my opinion, they kind of worked; but sadly that’s not the only issue we have to worry about.

In fifth grade, we all had a sex-ed unit where we talked about STDs and contraceptives. And then in eighth grade and sophomore year we did it gain. And then we were done.

Since the “#MeToo” movement started, I’ve been thinking: why can’t there be a Second Step like program that teaches teenagers how to have consensual and respectful relationships with other genders? Why have we let this topic remain so taboo in high schools even though it affects so many people?

The conversations that we have about sexual harassment are completely different in girls and guys adviseries, and these discussions can never be truly productive without having a structured dialogue between genders.

In the past week I have heard some guys saying that even if Kavanaugh did sexually assault Blasey-Ford, that it just isn’t that big of a deal. That’s when the Kavanaugh situation stops being political—people aren’t realizing the severity and prevalence of these occurrences and how much of an impact they can have on the victims.

Girls have been taught by their parents and friends about how to protect themselves from sexual assault from a young age, and have worked to put themselves in safe situations. Wouldn’t it make sense to at least spend some time and energy in school to ensure that boys and girls know how to interact with each other respectfully?

“I didn’t know any better” should never be an excuse for us, because when it comes to normal bullying, nobody ever gets away with saying that. Instead of having to punish men after they have harassed or assaulted someone, we need to teach them that those things are really bad before they start to do them. This will protect both possible victims and perpetrators from getting hurt in the future.

Second Step taught us to be nice and to have sympathy, and without this, who knows how many bullies there would be at this school. We continually overlook how much these activities have helped us in becoming better friends and people, and with the same kind of education for the pressing issues that relate to high school students, maybe stories of sexual misconduct will become more rare in the future.