Sex ed is pertinent despite laws

Ginny Jacobs

Contributing Writer

Utah’s House of Representatives recently passed a bill that gives public schools in that state a choice: teach sex education that is all about not having sex, or drop sex education completely. The bill not only allows schools to skip sex education, but also prohibits those that do opt to teach the course from discussing contraception. Having attended a Catholic girls’ high school that taught an abstinence-only approach, even I think it’s a bad idea.

Young people need to know the facts to protect themselves. Avoiding the topic of sex entirely leaves teens unprepared to have safe sex. The United States has the highest rate of sexually transmitted diseases in the industrialized world, with approximately half the population experiencing an STD in their lifetime. Obviously students can pick up basic facts here and there from friends and family, but a firm groundwork is necessary. Without it, teens rely on misinformation and half-truths acquired from their friends.

Realistically, a certain percentage of teens will have sex and they need to be prepared. At my high school, we were constantly preached a message of abstinence, but never taught anything about preparation for sex. The truth of the matter was that many girls were having sex. I knew of fellow classmates who, unprepared to have sex responsibly, faced the consequences: pregnancies, which resulted in abortions, and even a few cases of STDs. It wasn’t until I arrived at college and listened to the infamous “Condom Lady” that I realized how prevalent STDs actually are.

Teaching abstinence-only merely tempts teens rather than giving them tools for handling sex maturely and responsibly. Watching an adult put a condom on a banana or realistically describing sex in class isn’t going to cause us to go crazy and have sex like maniacs. For me, it was the opposite: good information made me more careful and thoughtful about my choices.

I’m not saying that abstinence is an entirely unrealistic option for teens and therefore shouldn’t be taught. Abstinence is always a choice one can make, but it shouldn’t be forced upon teens. If not abstinence, perhaps restraint could be taught: taking steps to be safe physically—using protection, etc.—and to be safe psychologically—waiting until you at least trust someone, and maybe even love the other person. Even if it is not emphasized, it is important for sex education to include teaching about the psychological consequences of sex. People can make their own moral decisions about sex, but our schools need to provide accurate biological and practical information. Even if you wait until marriage, for example, you will likely need to know about contraception.

When sexual information is presented in a matter-of-fact way, teens will begin to think of it less as a naughty, alluring thing. Remove some of the mystery, and they’ll be less likely to experiment recklessly. If all of the facts are laid out on the table before it begins to enter their minds, young teens can think of sex as something that is normal but an individual decision–best considered carefully–as to when to begin sexual activity, and with whom.

Teaching abstinence doesn’t ensure that young people will remain abstinent. Students are going to decide their own moral politics and the law should prepare them, even when they make bad choices. Kids are going to be exposed to sex at some time or another, whether from friends or in the media. We can’t hide this topic from kids forever by taking it out of school.

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