Abstain from Abstinence Only Sex Education

The topic of sex can be an awkward subject to teach preteens and teens, but simply telling them to avoid sex altogether is neglecting a vital part of education. Abstinence-only education is an outdated teaching method that allows for misinformation to spread, and is more likely to harm teens, more than help.

While there is risk in teens having sex, by properly teaching them about the risks and how to avoid them, educators will be doing their job of preparing teens for the real world.

According to a 2017 Washington Post article, “Abstinence-only education does not work. We are still funding it.” by John Santelli, “Mainstream health professional groups, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Society of Adolescent Health and Medicine, have come out strongly against abstinence-only approaches and in support of education that promotes health sexuality. This is not surprising, given the emphasis in medical ethics on providing patients with all the information they need to make wise choices. Pediatricians feel the same way about educating children and adolescents. Physicians are not the only ones who believe that adolescents should not be limited to abstinence education. National surveys demonstrate strong support among parents for sexuality education that gives young people all the information they need to protect their health.”

If a teenager is not taught about sex in a safe learning environment, information tends to be sought out another way: online. This, if not fact checked, is how misinformation spreads. Without anything to base this new-found knowledge on, besides “do not do it”, there is no way of knowing what is correct and what is not.

According to a 2017 Columbia article, “Abstinence-only sex ed is a failure” by Stephanie Berger, “Abstinence-only-until-marriage approaches have set back sex education, family planning, and HIV-prevention efforts. Between 2002 and 2014, the percentage of schools in the U.S. that require students to learn about human sexuality fell from 67 percent to 48 percent, and requirements for HIV prevention declined from 64 percent to 41 percent. In 1995, 81 percent of adolescent males and 87 percent of adolescent females reported receiving formal instruction about birth control methods; by 2011-2013, only 55 percent of young men and 60 percent of young women said the same. By contrast, comprehensive sex education programs, have favorable effects on adolescent behaviors, including sexual initiation, number of sex partners, frequency of sexual activity, use of condoms and contraception, frequency of unprotected sexual activity, STIs, and pregnancy.”

Learning at school is a consistent and reliable way of getting information. This way, everyone gets a fair chance at the same education. If the responsibility of sex education is given solely to the parents, the education system is factoring out a large, but real group of children who will lack this information. Those without parents of the same gender, or parents at all, will miss out on vital information.

The concept of teaching teens to stay away from, rather than learn about sex is an outdated and harmful ideology. Teens deserve comprehensive sex education in order to be prepared for the future.