By Amy Johnson, Sex in the Suburbs
Recent news regarding now former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer got me thinking about what prostitution, exploitation and comprehensive sexuality education all have in common.
Prostitution, though it has existed since before Biblical times, has only recently become worthy of research. Now is a good time to make it worthy of discussion: It has been all over the media for days, and unfortunately, glamorized.
Contrary to the call girls interviewed on morning news programs, most women who are prostitutes in our country enter the profession as young girls who need money to support a drug habit and/or keep from being homeless, not to better their financial status and get a book deal.
In addition, many of their customers subscribe to at least four of the eight “rape myths” (attitudes that have been used to justify sexual violence against women), such as: Women who wear tight clothing are asking to be sexually assaulted, and women who report rape are lying because they are trying to get back at a man with whom they are angry (National Institute of Justice, NIJ Journal No. 255, November 2006).
In the comprehensive sexuality curriculum that I am trained to teach, we help youth understand sexual harassment and exploitation. We ask them for examples from their own lives, TV, magazines, music, etc., and we discuss them.
The definition of sexual misconduct under Title VII of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is “unwelcome
sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a
Therefore, it becomes crucial that our children understand that “I was just kidding” or “I didn’t mean anything” are not valid excuses for rude remarks or gestures in the workplace. We need to have these discussions with our youth, not only to encourage respectful relationships between all people, but also because people are being held to this standard in their schools and places of employment.
This is part of why I do not support abstinence-only education for our youth. The focus is too narrow. A recent Centers for Disease Control study found that one in four American teenage girls has a sexually transmitted disease, and not all of them had intercourse.
Young people need more information than telling them to wait to have intercourse until they are married. They need to know how to stay safe, how to know and keep their own boundaries, how to recognize unhealthy behaviors like harassment and exploitation, how to tell and get help if something like that happens to them.
I applaud Washington state for passing a law requiring any sexuality education taught in schools to be comprehensive, as well as medically accurate. Washington said “no thanks” to federal abstinence-only funding, which requires grantees to agree to exclude information about the health benefits of contraception to prevent pregnancy and STDs from their programs.
Now, we need to spread the word. March 17 is national call-in day for the Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act, which would ensure that young Americans will be educated and informed with medically accurate information about abstinence, contraception and disease prevention, as well as giving them tools to make informed decisions, be responsible, resist peer pressure, and understand and accept diversity.
I believe that giving youth more information than “just say no” creates a better environment for all of us. More education means less exploitation, less prostitution, less pregnancy, less disease and, it is hoped, less sex scandals to explain to our children.
Amy Johnson, MSW, is a professional life and parent coach in Federal Way. She facilitates faith and sexuality classes for youth, and parenting classes at the Federal Way Community Center. Contact: email@example.com.