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Reproductive health should be destigmatized

Written by Cassandra Bond

Upon reaching teenage years, people become increasingly more interested in sex and relationships. This increase in curiosity brings the need for sex education, easy access to birth control and readily available menstruation products. The different aspects of reproductive health—birth control, feminine products and condoms—have all been spoken about in whispers. Although the Resource Center for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention reveals that 47 percent of high school students are sexually active in the United States, the subject of reproductive health is still stigmatized. This is because of the negative connotations surrounding sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy out of wedlock. These stigmas discourage the idea of sexually active teens, but it cannot change the fact that people will still choose to participate in sexual activity. Reproductive health should not be stigmatized because of the importance of being educated enough to make good choices about one’s well-being.

The stigma behind sex can be traced back to religious beliefs when settlers first came to America in the 17th century. Protestant settlers viewed sex as less of a normal act than it is now, making it more stigmatized. Along with religion, gender roles emphasize the secrecy in sex among women and acceptance of sex among men. Different ideas of gender play a harmful role in the expectations of sexual activity. These gender roles also contribute to the disregard for free tampons or pads and support for young mothers. With those factors in mind, society has placed a negative connotation on reproductive health.

Birth control also contributes to the stigma attributed to sex.Birth control is not free in most states, but can be supported through public healthcare or insurance. Some people cannot afford the cost of certain types of birth control, or do not have easy access to it, making it more difficult to have safe sex. Only recently, Maryland declared its birth control to be entirely free, although many states do not have the same advantage. Teens need easy access to birth control to have control over their choices and be free of judgment.

Currently, different kinds of conmost schools and workplaces. However, it is still a social

norm to dismiss talk about condoms and sex. Along with the taboo surrounding condoms, feminine products are not present in the bathrooms at Gunn, despite the need for them by roughly half of Gunn’s population. Society’s norms encourage people to keep the topic of women’s menstruation at a mini- mum, while women are dealing with their periods on a monthly basis. Along with the issue of receiving easy forms of contraception and feminine products, the U.S. still has different approaches to sex education, such as ones that stress abstinence, that add to the stigma around contraception.

Although there are differing views of how to handle reproductive health issues, keeping the subject under wraps and thus stigmatizing the situation only increases unplanned pregnancies and misinformed students. According to a study done at the University of Washington, teens who received a comprehensive sex education have a 60 percent less chance of getting pregnant than teens who are taught an abstinence-only education. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 19 states in the U.S still do not require sex education in schools. With no law forcing schools to teach sex education, many teens are without the education they need to have safe sex. Students should get the opportunity to have all of their questions answered in a safe school environment. Withholding information on sex will only cause more interest in the subject than if it was discussed as how it is: a normal human function. Although some people fear the idea of teens having sex, it is better to be confident in one’s options and choices. We must be open about reproductive health by providing easy access to birth control and increasing the acceptance of conversations about sex; however, having little access to contraception makes it more difficult to encourage the safe practice of sex.

Through discussions, lessons and open conversations, reproductive health can become less of a national problem, and more of an accepted subject. The more acceptable sex-related issues are, the easier it will be for people to prevent different sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies. As our campus continues to grow and implement different ideas, it is important to keep teens well-informed, and provide access to the contraception that they need, without judgment. Through these practices, the stigma behind reproductive health can be erased.

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