Why We Need Sex Ed
Last January, I took a class with my university where my classmates and I traveled to D.C. We listened to a variety of speakers including Sarah Hillware.
Ms. Hillware has many impressive accomplishments, but the one that prompted my post is Girls' Health Ed.
Meeting her today made me think about the sexual education I received during school. For myself, and many others, SexEd is taught as a part of our gym class. Gym is mandatory for all students to graduate in my school district, so by extension everyone receives SexEd.
However, our sexual education was taught over one week, briefly, in a way that we did not have to pay attention to it. Often it was skipped, or people only came because we got to have pizza.
Our sexual education was present, but it was not effective. Part of the reason it was not effective is because no one took it seriously. Essentially we were told that if we didn't have sex, we wouldn't have to worry about sexual health such as preventing STDs and pregnancy. This is true, but it is not a realistic approach with high school students. Additionally, most of us will become sexual beings at some point during our lives. The information we are given about sex and sexual health informs us past a high school or middle school age. The result of this mentality was that students knew the same amount of information going into the curriculum as they did when they left it.
A glaring example of this was when my instructor passed birth control pills around when she was explaining birth control to the class. Students would steal a pill or two, thinking that it would prevent pregnancy because we were never told it took multiple pills taken every day to make them effective.
Why do we need sexual education?
In the United States, the federal government only provides funding for abstinence centered sexual education. However, abstinence-only or abstinence centered sex ed is simply ineffective because it lacks essential information about healthy sex lives and healthy relationships. Some high school students choose to remain abstinent, but other students choose to have sex. Because parents often do not discuss “the birds and the bees” and may not have all of the most accurate, applicable information, it falls on society to keep our students safe. Sexual education is about safety and health NOT encouraging youth to have sex.
To put this in perspective, in 2015, the CDC reported that there were 22.3 births from women aged 15 to 19 per 1,000 women in this age group. This compares to the Netherlands at 4 per 1,000 and the United Kingdom at 15 per 1,000. (Check me here)
Stepping aside from pregnancy, let’s look at STD rates. In 2016, people aged 15-24 represent 63.1% of all chlamydia cases, and the rate of chlamydia in people aged 15-19 increased by 4.0% from 2015 to 2016. From 2015 to 2016, gonorrhea rates for people aged 15-19 increased by 11.3%. This same age group saw an increase of 13% for cases of primary and secondary syphilis.
That was a lot of data, but essentially it means that young people are having sex. It also means that a lot of this sex is unprotected.
The Report of the Council on Science and Public Health: An Updated Review of Sex Education Programs in the United States showed there was little to no increased knowledge of sex and sexual health after abstinence based sex ed.
To Sum Up:
Sexual education is an essential part of high school and middle school curricula because young people make these decisions for themselves. The best thing to do is to teach them how to stay safe and healthy.
Here are some of the valuable topics you should learn about during Sex Ed:
STDs and HIV
Female and male puberty and development
Sexuality and information about sexual identity/orientation
Sexual violence, rape and abuse
Self respect and dignity