Many teens have sex and may suffer consequences as a lack of comprehensive sex education in schools irresponsibly fails youth. Yes, teens are doing the “dirty,” and they have since the dawn of time. If teens are engaging in sexual activity, why deny them information about avoiding disease and pregnancy? Why not teach them to be sex-positive about their bodies?

Why insist on a sexual conduct standard that even adults fail to follow or obey but despair when their child suffers from sexual issues? We must create comprehensive sex education in schools to meet the needs of teens and give them the information they deserve. Getting down and dirty shouldn’t mean feeling down or dirty about our bodies and choices.

Current Sex Ed Isn’t Relevant to Real Life

It’s time for the education system to get real. Teens are having sex in their relationships, and a wish, prayer and penny between kneecaps aren’t helping anyone when it comes to reality.

Most sex ed programs are too moralistic and don’t recognize that teens are already in relationships — today’s sex ed isn’t relevant and lacks real details.

Sex ed is a little awkward for almost anyone, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Students should learn more about what sex between partners means.

“Partners” also include LGBTQ couples, and some states mandate that sexual orientation and contraception discussion be left out of “The Talk” altogether. Sex isn’t a problem of management. Sex occurs for many reasons between couples, including as an expression of love and as a fulfillment of desire. Schools must face their fears of dealing with projected morality and focus on fact to bridge the gap. Greater stakes are at risk — sex impacts the individual physically, emotionally, psychosocially and even economically.

Sex Ed as Abstinence Costs More Than You Think

The government spends over a billion dollars annually on abstinence-until-marriage sex ed programs. And this focus on managing sex as a problem and addressing the moral rights of parents over the rights of students to bodily and educational autonomy costs even more than you may think.

Each year, teens experience over 9.1 million STD infections and 850,000 pregnancies by age 25 just because mandates prevent sex educators from discussing the benefits of condoms and contraception at length — no federal funding for sex ed. By age 18, 70 percent of young women and 62 percent of young men engage in vaginal sex. What’s the “right” reason to have sex, and who should decide that? Teens should themselves, and education is key.

Comprehensive sex education teaches youth to adopt healthy sex practices, sexual behaviors and body image. And comprehensive sex education doesn’t increase sex initiation rates, decrease the age of sexual engagement or raise the frequency of sexual occurrences or numbers of partners. The birth rate declined in the recent past due to increased contraceptive use and delayed sexual initiation thanks to comprehensive sex education. Meanwhile, 88 percent of those who make abstinence pledges engage in sex before marriage, though they may try to delay.

Parents Aren’t the Target Audience Here

Schools can’t blame parents for their sad programs either — among parents, 89 percent believe sex ed should include information about abstinence, condoms and contraception, and only a small percentage think that abstinence-only education is the way to go. Keep that penny as tight between the kneecaps as you like, schools — but parents know better than to make unrealistic wishes in wells. Instead, they want to focus on their childrens’ total well-being.

Many parents realize they’re not the audience that schools must concern themselves with because more is at stake. Teaching sex ed in middle school is supported by 93 percent of parents, and that number raises to 96 for high school. The comprehensive topics of approval range from contraception to discussions of subjects unique to one’s sexual orientation. So yes, the majority of parents think Adam and Steve deserve as much sex ed spotlight as Adam and Eve — and that goes for Adina and Eve too.

Many comprehensive sex education programs include life skills — discussions of sexual health and emerging personal situations with family and how to talk to one’s partner, which are skills parents could get better at with one another, too. They also include information on how to avoid coercion. Educators have a greater responsibility to inform and empower youth, who deserve comprehensive sexual education for all sexual identities.

Teaching Teens About Consent

Offering medical accuracy when defining anatomy and sexual acts is as important as talking about consent. Forty-three bills sought to advance sexual education out of 64 bills introduced in 2017. Thirty bills addressed educational concepts on decision-making and communication skills, healthy relationships, reproductive health problems in adolescence, addressing relationship abuse and violence, human trafficking, navigating unwanted advances and consent. Unfortunately, many that addressed sexual violence prevention instruction got shot down.

Two laws were passed in California to address the prevention of sexual violence through education. In Virginia, two laws were passed to address consent in the family life curriculum, but schools are allowed to make the decision to include or exclude this information.

With the rise of #MeToo, the need to identify and address sexual violence increases to epidemic, life-threatening levels that schools and legislature deny. Sex and violence do not coincide in relationships.

However, “sex” remains a dirty word that many schools would rather manage than focus on informing and empowering youth of all sexual orientations about. Perhaps starting with “What does sex mean to you?” is the key question we should all answer, and more importantly, allow youth to answer for themselves.

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