"Girls have very different experiences and stories to tell when it comes to when they first find out about contraception. Often times these stories come from learning about the pill and not so much about emergency contraception or negotiation to use a condom. Being able to feel comfortable to admit that, as a girl/young women, we have sex and then to be able to feel comfortable to talk about which contraceptive methods we would like in order to prevent pregnancy or an STI still seems like an ideal situation for girls.
We aren’t having sex to prevent these outcomes of sex, we are having sex for other reasons. Still, it is important that girls have contraceptive knowledge and choice and that girls can feel comfortable to talk about this.
I come from a family of all girls, and I asked my sisters the question, “when did you first learn about contraception?” Interestingly, we all had different answers and different stories around this question. Here’s my slightly funny and a little depressing story of my first memory of learning about contraception:
My school sex education (not about sexuality at all), similar to many young people, focused on abstinence only scare tactics as well as the biological/anatomical background of sex. During sex education we were shown huge pictures of STIs to know what some STIs, i.e. chlamydia and warts looked like. We ended up saying things like ‘eww gross’ and shielding our eyes and in utter disbelief that that could actually happen to someone. The message from this was supposed to be to either not have sex or wear a condom. The teachers never really thought that young people will never admit to having an STI if there is so much stigma around having one. For some reason, the school decided to address this topic in the same week as wearing a safety belt when in a car – the pictures for this one were major trauma car accidents on what has happened to people who don’t wear their seatbelts…. The message was clear: never have sex and never get in a car!
Luckily for me, talking about getting on birth control was an easy discussion to have. I do remember girls saying “yes, but I’m only on the pill to prevent acne and so my menstrual cramps aren’t so bad”. We still have a lot of work to do to help support girls who want to have sex, feel good about their choices and live healthy sexual lives that protect themselves."