What Are We Teaching Kids About Sex?

Sex education is a constant source of debate in American society. As a proponent for sex education in school, I believe that it is important to teach children not only about contraception, pregnancy, and STDs, but also about sexual orientation, feelings, desires, being ready for sexual intimacy, and love. But with the current focus on abstinence and sex being acceptable only within marriage, teens are expected to delay sex until they are married. And that is exactly what most American teenagers are doing, right? They wait until marriage and they only have one sex partner their whole life? Wrong!

Most American teenagers have sexual experiences during their teenage years, and most have sex before marriage. Therefore, abstinence-only programs are not very effective. So is it not better to teach children how to be prepared, protected, and emotionally ready for sex, so that they can avoid unwanted teen pregnancy, contracting STDs, or having sex with a partner before they are mentally and physically ready?

At the same time, in order for sex education to be effective, it also needs to be based on facts, but that’s not always the case.  According to a recent report from the New York Civil Liberties Union, many sex education courses and textbooks are outdated and present both biased and inaccurate information:

“While 80 percent of districts taught some information about condoms, only a third of them provided demonstrations, and some schools were teaching flat-out dangerous misinformation. They told students that condoms containing a certain type of spermicide could prevent the transmission of HIV.  But, in actuality, the spermicide they cited (which is still on the market) makes it easier for the HIV virus to spread.”

Still, most parents would like their children to be taught about sex in school. In Texas, a more comprehensive sex ed program has been adopted by quite a few schools, even though some parents strongly believe that teaching children about sex will simply increase sexual behavior.

In addition to teaching children about sex in school, I strongly believe that parents have the foremost responsibility to inform and educate their children about sex. It is well known that American teens are less likely to use contraceptives, more likely to become pregnant, and also more likely to contract STDs when compared to their European counterparts. Therefore, it seems to me that we are not teaching our children what they need to know about sex, either in school or at home. But we need to for the health and well being of American teens.

To find out more about the sexual behavior of American teens, I would recommend the Guttmacher Institute’s “Facts on American Teens’ Sexual and Reproductive Health.” I also found Not Under My Roof: Parents, Teens, and the Culture of Sex by Amy T. Schalet to be a great source when comparing American and European (Dutch) views on teenage sexuality, sleepovers, and sexual experiences.

 Photo uploaded by Flickr user cayobo and is shared under a creative commons license.

Comments

  1. Teen pregnancy rates in this country have dropped—in 2008, there were 68 pregnancies per 1,000 women ages 15 to 19, down from 117 in 1990. However, those numbers reflect one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the developed world, Guttmacher reports. And, while 15- to 24-year-olds comprise one-fourth of America’s sexually-active population, they contract almost half of the 18.9 million new cases of sexually-transmitted diseases each year.

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