Mississippi has one of the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the United States, with 76 percent of teenagers having sex before they graduate high school, but it wasn’t until this year that sex education became a required part of the high school curriculum.
Marie Barnard, a public health worker and one of the parents who fought to bring sex education into Mississippi classrooms, spoke with the Los Angeles Times. The new curriculum has teachers in Oxford, Miss., asking “students to unwrap a piece of chocolate, pass it around class and observe how dirty it became.”
“They're using the Peppermint Pattie to show that a girl is no longer clean or valuable after she's had sex — that she's been used," Barnard said. "That shouldn't be the lesson we send kids about sex.”
The comparison to dirty objects is nothing new. A school district in Texas instructed teachers last year to compare people who have had sex to dirty tooth brushes and sticks of gum, reports Slate.
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“People want to marry a virgin, just like they want a virgin toothbrush or stick of gum,” the guide read.
Kidnapping-victim-turned-advocate Elizabeth Smart came forward last year and argued that the analogy is damaging, saying:
“I remember in school one time, I had a teacher who was talking about abstinence. And she said, ‘Imagine you’re a stick of gum. When you engage in sex, that’s like getting chewed. And if you do that lots of times, you’re going to become an old piece of gum, and who is going to want you after that?’ Well, that’s terrible. No one should ever say that. But for me, I thought, ‘I’m that chewed-up piece of gum.’ Nobody re-chews a piece of gum. You throw it away. And that’s how easy it is to feel you no longer have worth. Your life no longer has value.”
Barnard and other Oxford mothers, whom students refer to as “the sex moms,” continue to advocate for a more useful and less insulting sex education curriculum. They have been lobbying for an “abstinence-plus” education that “[urges] abstinence but also [teaches] about contraception.”