Sex ed. put to the test

By Cynthia Retamozo

Sexual education has always been different around the world. In the 1960s, when the condom was being introduced to the villagers of Chile, educators showed how to use it by placing it over a broomstick. But when the men returned home with their condoms, they placed it over their wives’ broomsticks and then proceeded to get intimate, according to junior English major Patricio Abarca. Obviously the correct message got lost somewhere in translation.

Last year, it was reported in a BBC news article that South African ex-Deputy President Jacob Zuma showered after having sex with an HIV infected women, thinking it would minimize his chances of becoming infected.

Along those lines, a United Kingdom survey in February showed one-third of British adults believe a woman can prevent unwanted pregnancy by jumping up and down and then washing or urinating after sex.

Many students may not understand how foreign sex education could be so poor that adults could believe such things, and it is fair to say the students of Northeastern are pretty sex ed. savvy. But as always, there is room for improvement.

Fourteen randomly selected students were asked eight questions based on information from the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts’ website.

Students were first asked to identify the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD). Several students answered with herpes, and although it is a very common STD, only two students got the correct answer: chlamydia.

The next question was “True or False: the majority of condoms work by killing sperm.” The correct answer: False – they work by collecting semen during and after a man ejaculates. Some condoms do kill sperm, although the question was based on a majority. Twelve students answered this correctly.

Students were then asked to identify the differences between Acquired Immune Deficiency (AIDS) and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Twelve answered correctly and said AIDS is the most advanced form of the disease HIV.

In the wake of the discovery of the first immunization against Human Papillomavirus (HPV), Gardasil, students were asked if they were aware of the fiery controversy surrounding it. Eight students were aware that religious conservative groups thought the vaccine gave license for premarital sex because it also defends against genital warts, another common STD. The other students were not aware of the controversy and had never heard of Gardasil.

One popular “prevention method” for unwanted pregnancy is for the man to “pull out” just before he ejaculates. Students were asked why this is not an effective method. Eleven students stated correctly that pre-ejaculate, or “pre-cum,” also contains sperm cells. The remaining three students answered that a man may not have self-control or may not know when he ejaculates.

There are numerous pregnancy prevention methods for women: birth control pills, diaphragms, the patch, etc. Students were asked what types of prevention methods are available for men, besides the use of condoms. Seven students were aware of vasectomies, which cause sperm to be kept out of the semen. The remaining students said they had never heard of a vasectomy. None of the students mentioned the new male birth control pill that’s currently in the final phases of FDA testing.

While on the topic of prevention methods, students were asked to pick from a list of contraception options which was obtainable over-the-counter. The list consisted of the patch, the pill, the morning-after pill, and the ring. Eight correctly chose the morning-after pill, which has recently been made available over-the-counter. The remaining students answered that none were over-the-counter and that all required a prescription.

The final question asked which prevention method was proven the most effective in preventing unwanted pregnancy. This was the only question all students answered correctly: abstinence.

The students who took the survey felt despite knowing that preventing unwanted pregnancy is more than “jumping up and down,” there needs to be improvement on the availability of sex education.

“It’s interesting how much we don’t know,” said Minney Varghese, a middler behavioral neuroscience major. “I think [the world] needs to improve our sex education in general.”

Sophomore nursing major Brittani McKellop recalled a common “prevention method” that was used in her high school as an example of just how poorly educated some people can be.

“The girls in my high school would immediately use a pad or a tampon if the condom broke,” she said. “I guess you can’t think logically when you’re in a panic.”

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