In the past years, I have learned a lot about sex education, birth control and abortion situations in other countries than mine, including the USA. Since I joined a group of bloggers discussing feminist topics, I have been exposed to even more information about this, and it led me to discuss my French point of view on these topics.
In France, sex education isn’t something commonly provided by schools. It is normally up to the family, or a doctor, to educate and answer questions. We have several mandatory medical examinations during our school years. I remember that the one in first year post high school, brought up many topics related to sex and birth control. I remember how the female doctor thought I wasn’t knowledgeable at all because I was virgin and had no problem admitting it. I shocked her by showing how much I knew about all of this, though I wished not to be sexually active.
When I hear people say that if you know much about sex, you’ll risk being promiscuous, I see red. By such backward standards, I would have had a harem since puberty! I have helped many friends who weren’t as educated on sexual matters since I was a teenager.
Information poster about different birth control methods (including official website to learn more). This poster is commonly displayed in GP’s waiting rooms in France.
My first exposure to any sort of scientifically based (which has been the information I have received) was when I was like 4 years old. My parents gave me a book for children with simple drawings to explain anatomy and conception.
The same way, I didn’t freak out when I got my period years later, because me being a curious child, I found out about it and my mother had a perfect explaination so I wasn’t concerned by sight of menstruation. She told me that ‘every month a woman makes a nest for a baby and that when there is no baby, the nest just goes away’. Up to this day, I remember the story!
The first time I heard of ‘abstinence only’ sex education, I didn’t understand how it could exist. I attended Catholic school, from last year of elementary to end of high school. We never heard a word against abortion (which was legalized in 1975 thanks to the amazing Simone Veil) or against birth control. Sex education didn’t really happen though, save for one class in first high school year. And even during this, it was in science, so all information was anatomically accurate.
When I see some description of sex education, patriachal expectations and even dress codes, I can’t help thinking that my Catholic school looks like a bunch of hippies in comparison. I loved my years spent there and it taught me a lot about compassion, hard work and tolerance. To me, there was a real spirit of charity and respecting Jesus’s message there.
I have nothing against abstinence as a personal choice, but it shouldn’t be something imposed on you. Everyone should be taught about sex to be able to make informed choices. Whether someone engages or not in sexual activity is their choice, and theirs alone. The same way, a woman who chooses to terminate a pregnancy should be the one in charge of her own body.
The more informed (with correct information) people are, the better they are prepared. This also counts for sexual matters.
Is France a perfect country? No, it isn’t. We have mysogynistic issues. There is domestic violence and sexual assault. Yet, I don’t feel threatened as a woman when it comes to my rights to access birth control or even abortion.
By now, I have been on birth control (of various kinds) for more than a decade. I have never been on birth control for contraceptive reasons, always health related ones. This proves once again that birth control’s name is problematic because of the vast panel of reasons women can choose to use it.
I have never been confronted to a pregnancy, so if I ever was to an unwanted one, I have no idea whether I would choose to terminate it. Yet, knowing that I have the legal right to get one is extremely important to me. This is why I have always been pro-choice. I also believe that birth control should easily be accessible and covered by health care. In France, many methods are covered by national health care, but not all. When I switched to the implant in 2012, I was surprised to find out it was 100% covered, while the patch wasn’t at all.
Investing in scientically accurate sex education (including about LGBTQIA+), accessible birth control, medically safe abortion procedures, is a wise societal choice. What about you? What do you think is important in terms of sex education?