Students grabbed cookies and condoms on their way into an event on sexual education Thursday.
Lisa Ling, a CNN journalist, led a discussion on sexual education in U.S. high schools and universities at “This is Sex with Lisa Ling – A Screening & Conversation” in Northwest Campus Auditorium on the Hill. Several UCLA organizations including UCLA Residential Life and the Sexual Health Coalition hosted the event, which featured a panel discussion as well as a question-and-answer session.
The event also screened “This is Sex with Lisa Ling,” a CNN digital miniseries that investigates the taboos surrounding sex in the United States. It focuses on the stigmatization of sex education and problems with sexually transmitted diseases.
The panel, which consisted of various experts on sexual health education, discussed different sexual education curricula across the country and resources available at UCLA for victims of sexual assault and people with STDs.
Leticia Jenkins, a sexual health educator featured in Ling’s series, said she thinks it is important that sex education begin at an early age.
“I’m a big believer in talking to kids as early as kindergarten so that they can feel that their privacy is important and that there’s such thing as sex and gender and identity and love,” she said.
Maya Ram, a fourth-year world arts and cultures student and UCLA Sex Squad member who participated on the panel, said she thinks students should learn about sexual health resources on campus like where to find free condoms, how to self-test for STDs and how to report sexual assault.
“We all want to know how to be safe. We all want to know how to have a good time,” she said. “We just want to know.”
Ling said she created the series because of her own experience with guilt and shame surrounding sex. She said she never had a dialogue about the topic with her family.
“I think that by continuing to constantly promote it and publicize it but not really have substantive dialogue about it, we collectively as a culture put ourselves in a dangerous position,” she said.
Ling added she was surprised that some of the students she met while filming the series were proactive about promoting sex education in schools, because of her own lack of sex education growing up.
“I’m heartened to know that there are high school students out there who are advocating for comprehensive sex education,” she said.
Several students who attended the event said they learned a lot of interesting facts about sexual education in the United States.
Katie Brennan, a second-year statistics student, said she thought it was interesting to learn how differently schools across the country approached sexual education, with some only advocating for abstinence and others providing condoms in school restrooms.
“Sex (education) was something I took for granted,” she added.
Ling said she hoped to help students at the event have an open dialogue about sex and become more comfortable with the topic.
“In so many cases, students who come to college are away from their parents for the first time in their lives, and so in many ways, those that have never had any sex education are vulnerable,” she said.