As of 2015, Mexico had 119,938,473 inhabitants. 52.4% of those were women, and about 18.5% of the female population was under 20 years old (rough estimate).

In the same year, there were 2,353,596 births and 18.2% of those who gave birth were teenage girls. 49% of the population claimed not to have used any method of birth control during their first intercourse, and 32,752 cases of STDs were registered with 85% of clinic appointments being requested by women.

These numbers help us reach a pretty obvious conclusion: in Mexico, we are doing something wrong with how we approach sex.

Many assert that this dilemma has a direct relationship with a country’s level of income and development. There is logic in this reasoning, as statistics tell us that around 90% of teenage births and nearly 95% of new HIV infections take place in developing countries. However, this cannot be the sole reason why Mexico stands as the country with the highest teen pregnancy rate amongst member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

I believe that there is an important contributing factor that, somehow, tends to go unnoticed. Because, honestly, how do we expect young people to know about sex if we are reluctant to talk to them about it?

According to Mexican psychologist Juan Pablo Arredondo, nearly 80% of Mexican parents avoid talking about sex with their children. And, if they do talk about it, over 50% of them won’t handle it well, imposing their religious beliefs over the facts. And, often, schools are no better. Perhaps the best way to illustrate my argument is with my personal experience…

Like many other middle-class Mexicans, most of my early academic life took place in private schools which, for the most part, tend to be religious. In these schools, the sole mention of sex was taboo, both by the student body and our instructors.

Fast-forward a couple of years and I finally attended a secular school which provided a some sexual education. This is still very much a rarity in Mexico, as the Secretariat of Public Education (SEP) doesn’t list sex-ed as a compulsory course in academic programs.

However, instead of learning about different methods of birth control, or about consent, I was shown pictures of STD symptoms and a very graphic video of an abortion procedure. Rather than learning about safe and healthy sex, I was taught to be terrified of the very act of intercourse and the potential consequences.

School was not where I learnt about sex. School is not where many young Mexicans learn about sex.

So, if our families and schools are neither available nor reliable sources, where are Mexicans learning about sex? The answer itself is problematic.

Many men can believe that what they see in porn is a reality – that they are going to find a hairless bombshell who will give her all for his satisfaction (and will, in doing so, magically achieve her own). On the contrary, women are told that sex is an act of love and, even if it is not the most pleasurable of acts, the feelings involved are what matters. If you mix these two beliefs, you end up with troubling scenarios like the one where unprotected sex is seen as ‘most pleasurable’ and the best way to keep your partner content, or the fetishization of lesbian relationships.

Of course, I am not saying that these are the de facto rules of how Mexicans think of sex. Instead, I am pointing out the possible consequences of the reluctance of those in charge of our education system to teach young people about sex.

Blaming our growing socio-economic inequality is easier than realizing that we are making a terrible mistake by avoiding talking openly about such a natural and fundamental topic. In doing so, we are hindering the chances of many young women out there.

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Category: Education    Health    Society    SRHR
Tagged with: Adolescent health    Mexico    sex education    sexual health    sexuality    teenage pregnancy    young people

Mariana Lizarraga

@mariana_lzrrg

I am a fourth year International Studies major at UDLAP in Puebla, Mexico. In this newfound passion for blogging, I hope I am able to portray some of the disparities that are present in Latin American regarding women's rights as well as to learn from everyone on this platform.

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  • Chelsey

    Education is key! It would allow these young men,women, and all people of the spectrum to form their own opinions about sex and how it should be done safely. As you mentioned, the education system can have very influential ideas regarding this topic. This is completely unfair to the students and adolescents. They are not equipped with the proper facts about sex and safe sex. Many schools and parents are uncomfortable with discussing such a natural behaviour that so many people participate in. It should be something students can ask about freely and not be judged for. It is so much safer and healthy if we are having these conversations BEFORE the feelings and actions occur rather than after. Not having the knowledge, limited knowledge or just biased knowledge is restricting these teens to higher pregnancy and STI rates, as you had said in your article. However, I’m not saying pregnancy is wrong by any means, but maybe with the proper eduction these teens would have options and knowingly go into the situation with all possible outcomes. I completely agree that we need to install sexual education into the curriculum while also giving facts and not opinions regarding sex.

    • Mariana Lizárraga

      Thank you for reading and for commenting. It means a lot!

      Yes, I agree entirely with you. And, just like you said, it is of utmost importance that we, and I’ll quote you on this one, give “facts and not opinions regarding sex.”

      I believe that the sooner we address this matter, the better. Plus, I am firmly convinced that we should leave our beliefs apart when educating the upcoming generations. So, for instance, religious beliefs have no place in a classroom.

      Once again, thank you so much for taking your time to read the post and for commenting.