Sex education is a mandatory educational subject in all schools in the U.S., but what students learn about it varies widely from school to school and state to state. Many parents are uneasy about the idea of their children learning about sex as well as what is being taught. But teaching kids about sex gives them tools they will need when they’re older, especially once they start dating or thinking about having sex for the first time.
Sex education can be challenging for some parents, but if you feel that your teen is ready to learn more about sex and its consequences, then read on to find out the benefits of teaching your teen Sex Education in high school.
Teaching Sex Education in Schools Is Necessary: Here’s Why
Both abstinence and safe sex are great. The problem is that most schools in the United States teach one of those things and not the other. The result is that students graduate from high school knowing little to nothing about how to have safe, healthy, and consensual sex. They end up believing erroneous information about sex from friends, family members, or partners—and sometimes all three in the same individual. As a result, we see widespread consequences from unsafe teen sex including rising numbers of teen pregnancies and STIs (like chlamydia and gonorrhea). It’s time for a paradigm shift where comprehensive, evidence-based sex education is taught as early as possible in order to reduce these negative consequences on young people’s lives.
Why Teaching Abstinence-Only Sex Ed Doesn’t Work
Abstinence-only sex ed programs have been the prevailing approach to sex ed in the United States since the 1980s. Despite growing research and statistical evidence proving that the programs are ineffective, the federal government has spent over $2 billion on abstinence-only sex ed since 1996. Abstinence-only sex ed is problematic for a number of reasons. First, the programs often promote false information about the effectiveness of condoms, birth control, and STI treatments. False information like this can lead students to make unsafe and uninformed decisions about sex and their bodies. Second, abstinence-only programs often promote shame, guilt, and stigma around sexual identity. This can create harmful stigmas that cause LGBTQ+ individuals to feel shame and guilt around their sexual orientation and identity.
Why Teaching Safe Sex Doesn’t Work
Just like abstinence-only sex ed, safe sex programs often don’t work. Safe sex programs will teach students how to use condoms correctly and how to get STI screenings. However, safe sex programs often focus on the biological aspects of sex and STIs rather than the psychological, sociological, or cultural aspects. As a result, students might leave these programs with great condom skills but little knowledge of how to have healthy, safe, and consensual sex.
Comprehensive Sex Education Should Be Taught in Schools
Sex ed programs should focus on both abstinence and safe sex. Specifically, sex ed programs should be comprehensive, evidence-based, and inclusive. Comprehensive sex ed programs should cover biological, social, psychological, and cultural aspects of sex. They should discuss the reproductive anatomy and physiology of both males and females. They should also cover the transmission, prevention, and treatment of STIs. Sex ed programs should also cover the sociological aspects of sex, including the cultural constructs of sex and gender. They should discuss how the interplay of sex, gender, and culture can create unique sexual experiences for individuals. Sex ed programs should be inclusive and LGBTQ+ sensitive. They should teach all students, regardless of their sexual identity, how to have healthy, safe, consensual sex. Sex ed programs should also discuss how sexuality is fluid and how people may experience changes in their sexual desires, identities, and relationships throughout their lives.
Reasons to Teach Comprehensive Sex Ed in Schools
There are many reasons why comprehensive sex ed should be taught in schools. First and foremost, comprehensive sex ed can help prevent teen pregnancies and STIs. By teaching all students about how to use contraceptives, get STI screenings, and use condoms correctly, sex ed programs can help students avoid negative consequences associated with teen sex. Additionally, comprehensive sex ed programs can help students cultivate healthy relationships, have more informed and empowered sexual identities, and protect their mental health.
How to Teach Comprehensive Sex Ed in Schools
Sex ed programs should be taught by qualified and experienced teachers. These teachers should be able to teach students about the biological, psychological, sociological, and cultural aspects of sex. Sex ed teachers should also be qualified to teach students about the transmission, prevention, and treatment of STIs. Finally, sex ed teachers should be qualified and able to teach students about how to have healthy, safe, and consensual sex. While sex ed programs can be taught by any qualified teacher, sexual health must be taught by a variety of teachers. Specifically, sex ed programs should be taught by a variety of qualified teachers including but not limited to biology teachers, health teachers, sex ed teachers, and STI educators.
Overall, the United States needs to shift its focus in the realm of teen sex education. Instead of promoting abstinence or safe sex, we should be promoting comprehensive sex ed. If we do so, we can help younger generations avoid the negative consequences that have plagued past generations.