Let’s Talk About (Safe) Sex

*Disclaimer: Yes. I’m really going there. This is a completely appropriate topic, it needs to be talked about. However if you are uncomfortable with the subject, I don’t mind if you choose not to read this article.*

Last night I was watching a show on ABC Family, The Fosters. I don’t often watch it, but my sister does and I find myself watching an episode here and there. It’s a show about foster parents and their foster children, most of the foster children are teenagers. Last night’s episode included two scenes in which teens (supposed to be ages 16-17) had sex. It is ABC Family, so they did not actually show the act- but they did show them getting started. Not ONCE did any of the characters (male or female) mention a CONDOM. I saw this as a huge problem. This show’s target audience is high school age teenagers and young adults. It is the producers’ and writers’ responsibility to promote safe sex if they are going to include their teen characters having sex. We live in a state (California) that does NOT require schools to teach comprehensive sex education (defined by the state of California as “Educating regarding human development and sexuality; including education on pregnancy, family planning and STDs”). Twenty-eight states in total do not require comprehensive Sex Ed. to be taught. That’s over half the states in this nation.

Think of all the teens who may not have access to sex education. Now think of all the teens who look up to the young characters on shows like The Fosters. It’s not good enough for shows targeted at teen audiences to devote just one or two episodes to safe sex and condom use, the issue should be discussed EVERY SINGLE TIME the characters have sex. Just like people should be practicing safe sex EVERY SINGLE TIME they have sex, unless in an extremely committed relationship. There are lessons to be learned on many television shows, but especially on shows on Teen Nick and ABC Family. Safe sex should be one of those lessons. The fact is, we need to teach about the diseases that people can catch if they don’t practice safe sex. According to the CDC, most reported cases of Chlamydia and Gonorrhea occur among 15-24 year olds. I would assume that people ages 15-24 are the targeted audience of The Fosters.

While California schools are not required to teach comprehensive sex education, they are required to teach HIV/AIDS prevention. And should CA schools teach Sex Ed. (the majority of CA school districts do teach it) they are required to teach medically accurate information. That seems like a given, but not all states are required to teach sex education that is medically accurate (how scary is that?). As a nation we need to come together on this issue. We need to get comfortable with talking about it because teens at younger and younger ages are getting more comfortable with sexual activity. Abstinence works great in theory, obviously if you don’t have sex you won’t wind up pregnant or with an STD. But we need to FACE THE FACT that teaching/encouraging abstinence alone is not a successful method in preventing teen pregnancy and STDs.

At the end of the day we should be striving to raise successful and driven young adults. An unplanned pregnancy can ruin a young adults’ chances of successfully completing high school/college, which significantly decreases their chances of getting a high paying job in the future. It is important to talk about family planning and what options are out there regarding an unplanned pregnancy.

Last night as I watched The Fosters I hoped I would see the characters stop their activity and pull out a condom or at least talk about it. Sadly that didn’t happened. The writers of that episode FAILED their audience, they had an excellent opportunity to promote safe sex (since they felt it necessary to promote teen sex). I hope in the future I see more people on TV talking about safe sex. And I hope this can be a talking point brought to the front burner in all American homes as well as in the classroom and on legislative floors. We have a duty to raise responsible young adults, and we as a nation cannot do that without including conversations about sex.