Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
My name is Gayatri Rajamony. I am 17 years old and attend an online High School called iUniversity Prep. I did not receive my sex ed from my online school because I just recently started going there. I got all my sex ed from my public school in Austin, Texas.
I decided to switch to online school because the environment in my high school was so competitive that it was toxic. Other students focused so much on getting in the top 10% that they denied themselves a social life, sleep, and destroyed their mental health. A lot of my peers did drugs to be able to stay on top.
What is your experience with sex education in Texas?
My official sex ed was mostly done in middle school. Then, we had one week in Biology class during my freshman year of high school where we covered it, but it was very clinical. There was this pervasive notion that if you had sex, you are bad and your life comes to an end. And it’s even worse if you have sex and you get pregnant! It was an abstinence-only education. My sex-ed teacher was actually my gym coach and her approach always scared me. It bordered on fear-mongering.
I ended up coming home and having an open discussion with my parents about it after that. I feel lucky that I have parents who are non-judgemental and willing to be open with me. They didn’t shame me when I had questions about sex, but I don’t think that was the case with a lot of my classmates. A lot of my classmates took to google which isn’t the best resource when you’re in sixth and seventh grade and haven’t had a lot of exposure in the past. There was a lot of misinformation and rumors going around.
What would you want to tell your younger self about sex and relationships?
I wish I had learned more about the LGBTQ+ community. I think that’s a huge blind spot in our sex ed. I don’t know if that will be fixed in Texas anytime soon, but I wish I had been more exposed to it.
I think that everyone in my grade level also needed to be taught about consent. That’s another huge blind spot. I guess you could argue that that might be a parent’s job, but I think often a parent isn’t able to always convey that important information. There needs to be a curriculum that encompasses consent and sexual assault.
We did have a unit on sexual assault in my school, but it was mostly “go to the bathroom in pairs”, “hold your drink close to you”, and “don’t drink from a punch bowl”. In all honesty, it felt like it would happen to me at some point in my life and the class was just meant to delay it from happening. It didn’t attack the root of the problem which is a lack of respect for boundaries and communication. It’s so much more fear-inducing than it is helpful. Hearing the statistic that one third of women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime is a scary thing to think about as a middle schooler. I wish it had been taught to me in a more sensitive and comprehensive way.
What could have been offered to you as a teen to make you feel more supported in making decisions about sex and relationships?
In elementary school, I believe that they taught us about “swimsuit zones”. I think it was supposed to help a child recognize the signs of grooming or sexual abuse. These are important things that I think schools should keep teaching beyond elementary school. Like I’ve said previously, I do wish they had talked about consent as well. Introducing those topics at a young age could prevent so many cases of sexual assault. I’m not excusing people who do it but it definitely could come from a lack of general understanding of consent and boundaries.
What do you wish you had, what would have been helpful, or what support do you think was missing that would have been most helpful to you?
I wish my school spent a little time demystifying LGBTQ+ stereotypes. I know a lot of students who were bullied and teased about their sexuality. I want people to know that just because I turned out to be mildly well adjusted, it doesn’t mean that sex ed at Texas high schools are creating that with everyone else. The issue with sex ed and sex ed curricula is something that affects every high schooler in Texas. These high schoolers will grow up and become the voters, policymakers, and taxpayers in Texas, our country, and the world. For them to understand issues of consent and boundaries, they need to be taught it in high school and middle school. If they aren’t taught it then when will they learn? There are so many misinformed kids who are turning to the internet which is not the best teacher. It is in our best interest and to try to fix this system as soon as possible!