How many of you would say that you received Sexual Education? How many would say that it was helpful and realistic? I know for myself, I did not receive proper education regarding sex. The only minor class that I received was when I was a freshman in high school and things like scare tactics were often perpetrated.
Even when Sex Ed classes are taught in school, a lot of the time it is inadequate and teaches unrealistic things such as “abstinence only” which results in higher rates of pregnancy and STD’s. The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States sites that In comparing abstinence-only programs with comprehensive sex education, comprehensive sex education was associated with a 50% lower risk of teen pregnancy.
Something most of us don’t think about is how discriminatory Sex Ed tends to be when it comes to LGBT youth who generally don’t receive knowledge on sex as it applies to them, which can have negative effects, among other things. Not only can lack of sexual education result in unplanned pregnancies and STD’s, but it can, a lot of the time result in a long line of young parents who follow in the footsteps of their parents.
Pregnancy and STD rates
The United States ranks FIRST among developed nations in rates of both teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. In an effort to reduce these rates, the U.S. government has funded abstinence-only sex education programs for more than a decade. The National Institute of Health reports that of the 21 states that stressed abstinence-only education in their 2005 state laws– the level of abstinence education was positively correlated with both teen pregnancy and teen birth rates, indicating that abstinence education in the U.S. does not cause abstinence behavior–it causes the contrary. Teens in states that prescribe more abstinence education are actually more likely to become pregnant.
Sex is a natural part of life, and it happens with or without sex education. 71% of American 19 year olds have had intercourse and 99% of Americans will have sex in their lifetime. Only 20 states require sex and HIV education be taught in schools. Sex is a fundamental part of being human, but less than half of our states require sex and HIV education, and most of what is taught is sub-par. Just because we refuse to talk about sex doesn’t mean it’s just going to go away.
Sex-education materials often assume students are heterosexual and non-transgender. Many sex-education curricula do not mention sexual orientation or gender identity at all, and some that do discuss it only do so in a negative light. This not only prevents LGBT students from learning the information and skills they need to stay healthy, but it also contributes to a climate of exclusion in schools, where LGBT students are already frequent targets of bullying and discrimination.
Aside from the lack of representation that non-heterosexual people get during Sex Ed, another aspect that needs to be incorporated into the discussion is pleasure. If sexual pleasure is not mandated in schools, there is no way to ensure young people know how to communicate consent. If left up to parental discretion, there is no guarantee every young person will know how to navigate their needs without being harmful to prospective partners.
Sexual education is about providing medically-accurate information, and the medically-accurate fact is that sexual behaviors can and should produce pleasure. If one’s baseline experience of sex is assaultive or negative in other ways, the expectations for future sexual relationships will reflect that. Including pleasure in sex ed can provide a more positive baseline and help to correct misinformation learned through negative life experience and possibly prevent previously accepted violence. –If we are teaching young girls that they should not enjoy it, what kind of message is that sending?
Effects on the children born to young parents
Not only can little to no sexual education contribute to the high rate of teen pregnancy, it can also cause major problems for the children born by those teens. In addition to its other effects, teen parenting is likely to hinder a child’s social and emotional wellbeing. When a baby is born to a teenage mother, he is likely to have more difficulty acquiring cognitive and language skills as well as social and emotional skills like self-control and self-confidence. These abilities are already developing in infancy, and they are essential for school readiness.
Children born to teen mothers are more likely to be incarcerated in their adolescence, drop out of high school, give birth as a teen and be unemployed for a large amount of their life. Youth.gov states that teen pregnancy costs U.S. taxpayers about $11 billion per year due to increased health care and foster care, increased incarceration rates among children of teen parents, and lost tax revenue because of lower educational attainment and income among teen mothers. Some recent cost studies estimate that the cost may be as high as $28 billion per year or an average of $5,500 for each teen parent.
To recap on what we discussed today; we spoke about why better sex ed is essential to personal stability as well as economic stability. Without thorough and realistic education on sex, teens are more likely to become pregnant and contract STDs that they probably didn’t even know existed. If that wasn’t bad enough, LGBT youth face even more possibilities being that they hardly get taught anything regarding how it is they have sex and how to protect themselves. We also debunked the idea that pleasure should be avoided in the conversation of sex ed and why it is essential. I hope you all learned something from this today and join me in the demand for better sexual education.