Even in the 21st century, talking about sexuality in families is a taboo

In rural communities, the onset of sexual life, especially for women, can occur even before the age of 16. World Sexual Health Day is commemorated on September 4.

Even in the 21st century, talking about sexuality in families is a taboo
The topic of sexuality is still taboo in many households, even in the modern day. Photo by Becca Tapert / Unsplash

Providing sex education at any age, even from early stages, is the way to prevent social problems such as teenage pregnancy, sexual violence, school, and sexual harassment through social networks (cyberbullying), says Virginia Barragan Perez, an academic from the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health of the Faculty of Medicine (FM).

According to the National Population Council, young people in Mexico begin their sexual life between 15 and 19 years of age, on average. Most of them, 97 percent, know at least one contraceptive method; however, more than half of them did not use any in their first sexual intercourse.

Data from the Ministry of Health indicate that the greatest unmet demand for contraceptive methods corresponds to adolescents in this age range. Likewise, it is estimated that 17.4 percent of total births are to women under 20 years of age, of which 60 to 80 percent are unplanned.

On the occasion of World Sexual Health Day, which is commemorated on September 4, as part of the studies carried out in the country regarding the age at which young people begin their sexual life, differences are reported. For example, although it is pointed out that this practice begins at a younger and younger age, in rural communities -where they lack access to education-, there are even cases in which it is practiced before the age of 16.

In the 21st century, talking about sexuality continues to be a taboo subject. Most parents do not know how to talk about it with their children, in addition to the lack of information and fear surrounding the subject. Although there is no specific age to talk about it with children and adolescents, it is necessary to do so from the early stages.

There are studies by organizations such as Unicef, Unesco, and Conapo, among others, which point out that sex education should be a constant process from birth, and that at six years of age it is convenient to start, in a direct and specific way, to deal with sexuality; however, "parents and teachers should be trained for this, answer the children's questions and continue with this education throughout life".

It has been shown that when children, adolescents, and the population, in general, have more information on the subject, they start their sexual life later. Likewise, the more knowledge they have, the more tools they will have to prevent the dangers that exist in the virtual world of social networks, such as sexual harassment, as well as early pregnancies, and gender violence, among other situations.

Sexuality is unfinished business

During the COVID-19 pandemic, teenage pregnancies increased by 30 percent, a problem that is on the rise despite the existence of the National Strategy for the Prevention of Teenage Pregnancy, although it focuses on the use of contraceptives and does not delve into other facets of sexual and reproductive health, says the academic.

"Given that sex education is a pending subject in the country and that children and adolescents learn or are learning about sex through pornography that is disseminated on social networks, it is important for parents to be aware of the information their children access, because the sexual and pornographic content that is disseminated there is not real, nor is the romantic love that is perceived in movies or series," warned the specialist.

It is necessary to educate men and women against gender violence and how to relate to each other from a point of view of respect, consent, and acceptance to enjoy a more pleasurable sexual life for both and without aggression; relationships must be built and agreements must be reached between couples.

This commemoration invites us to remember that in Mexico we have serious lags in this area and to provide options on what we can do to improve the sexual and reproductive health of the population in general, and of university students in particular.

It is important that we begin to educate men on the subject, that they understand that there are different ways of bonding, not from domination, but through egalitarian relationships, while women should ask and communicate how they would like to live their sexual relationships, how to express whether or not they consent to certain practices.

Also teaching adolescents, young people, and adults to communicate between couples, to agree, to ask, to say what we like and what we don't, will lead us to have more egalitarian relationships.

Since 2010, the World Association for Sexual Health (WAS) established September 4 as World Sexual Health Day, whose purpose is to raise awareness among the population about the promotion of sexual and reproductive rights, diversity, and health in a pleasant way, without discrimination or risks.