Last Thursday during common hour we heard Dr. Wade give a lecture entitled “The Promise and Perils of Hook-Up Culture.” Though the majority of her research was on a very small sample size (a class of hers), her ideas seemed applicable to the F&M hook up culture. I left the talk thinking less about F&M and more about how one’s community and the attitudes the community has towards sex has a dramatic impact on the perception and role of sex in the culture. Obvious extremes come to mind- for example, the fact that some cultures practices FGM says a lot about how sex is viewed by certain members of those societies. Moreover, the number of partners South Africans in townships often have says a lot about some of their cultural views as well. Comparable to the small F&M culture, American stigmas and views on sex and sexual education have a dramatic affect on us all.
While visiting my best friend who is studying in Amsterdam over spring break, we went to the NEMO science museum. Knowing my love for science, she thought this would complement the the tour of the red light district and the Van Gogh Museum. Well, it did. Walking into a children’s science museum, I was ready to play with bubbles and be a kid again. Surrounded by children ranging from ages seven to mid teens, I found myself completely surprised when I entered the third floor. The third floor of this science museum was devoted to sex. Walking into the exhibits reminded me of the Sex museum in NYC that has a strict 18+ age limit (In fact, my friends and I visited the NYC sex museum when one of my friends turned 18 during a visit to the city).
So what sort of affects does explicit and intentional safe sex education have on a country? According to The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICF), the adolescent birth rate (girls aged 15-19) is 4 in the Netherlands and 41 in America (births per 1,000 girls, 2005-2009). That’s over 10x higher! In addition HIV/AIDS prevalence rate (ages 15-49) is 0.2 in the Netherlands and 0.6 in America (2009), again 3x higher. Similar statistics were found for abortion rates. It’s clear that many other factors may contribute to some of these but I think one of the underlying differences between America and the Netherlands is the general approach to sexual education from early on. I don’t know about you but my sex ed class in high school consisted of learning the male and female body parts with a little bit of drug and alcohol information thrown in there. In the Netherlands kids (as young as 7!) are given a wealth of information regarding sex so that they can be safe and make decisions that are best for them. I don’t think analyzing F&Ms hook up culture (or other universities for that matter) can ever give a complete picture. Maybe it’s time to really analyze how American society and education system approaches teaching our youth about sex.