August 2019: Unmentionables
At Mabel Wadsworth Center, our interns are responsible for updating the bulletin board in our waiting room once a month. In case you haven’t had the chance to visit us recently, you can read about this month’s bulletin board topic here. This post is by our 2019 summer intern, Julia Seixas (she/her/hers), who comes to us from College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, ME.
A majority of us grow up in a society where we do not talk about sexuality and reproduction. For many Americans, most of our schooling involved little to no sexual education, leaving us feeling weird and uncomfortable talking about sexual and reproductive health, even though it is a normal and necessary part of our lives. Some of us may have had “the birds and the bees” conversation at a young age, but that was likely far from an inclusive dialogue. Perhaps we learned about sexual health in our schools, yet that did not leave us in a better position in navigating our sexual lives. Many of us get squeamish when we talk about sex and our bodies, so how can we become more comfortable when we are talking about sexuality and reproduction?
According to the Guttmacher Institute, only 24 states mandate sex education: 22 of those require both sex and HIV education, and the other two require only sex education. Meanwhile, a mere 13 of those 24 states require the information to be medically accurate, which is an appalling statistic. With an education system that largely does not teach students about a natural part of their lives, it creates a world where it is socially unacceptable to discuss sex and reproduction openly. The lack of openness in talking about sexual health perpetuates a society that is unaware, and therefore uneducated about our bodies and our options. Without proper knowledge about safe sex practices and a general understanding of our bodies can lead to various health risks such as sexually transmitted infections and increased chances of unintended pregnancy.
The solution is clear: we need schooling that teaches students to love their bodies and embrace their sexual and reproductive lives. If we learn about our bodies, including about how puberty begins, how contraception and birth control work, pregnancy risk, the dynamics of consent, and about the diversity of human sexuality and gender identity, it sparks a conversation that can prepare us for our sexual and reproductive lives while providing us with the knowledge to be more understanding of others and their experiences.
We need to bring human sexuality into the light and create a culture where it is normal to talk about it so we can empower each other by sharing our stories and experiences, letting people know they are not alone. If we are more open to talking about sexuality and reproduction, it helps to build a more welcoming society.
At Mabel Wadsworth Center, we have a client-centered, feminist approach to healthcare, and believe that everyone deserves to be educated, empowered, and have the right to autonomy over their sexual and reproductive lives. Though the reintroduction of the Mabel’s Voices Project, our goal is to demolish the silence, shame, and stigma that surround sexual and reproductive healthcare, bodily autonomy, and personal identity by building individual and collective power through story sharing.
On August 9th, Mabel Wadsworth Center will be hosting a Story Slam at West Market Square Artisan Coffeehouse in Bangor. The slam will focus on stories of sexual and reproductive healthcare, and everyone is welcome to share stories that they might not have been able to before. The story slam will be a safe, inclusive, and judgment-free space where all folks are welcome to listen and/or participate.
Let’s change the conversation and make it normal to talk about sex and reproduction. We look forward to hearing your stories!