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Lets Talk About Sex: Sex Education

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“Sex education is high quality teaching and learning about a broad variety of topics related to sex and sexuality, exploring values and beliefs about those topics and gaining the skills that are needed to navigate relationships and manage one’s own sexual health” (Parenthood, Planned). The public school system needs to include a more comprehensive sex ed curriculum. One that informs students about both abstinence and contraception. Currently, there is no set standard for sex education programs across the United States. 

This means each school district decides what they will teach; thus, students across America are learning very different topics. On top of that, most schools teach abstinence-only-until-married programs. Therefore, students are not being taught very important and sometimes life-saving information. Public schools across the United States of America should be required to teach sex education which includes information about the male and female bodies, how to have safe sex, and how to handle sexual assault. After all, sex education is not only about intercourse.

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Teenagers, adults, and even children are constantly receiving information about sex. It’s hard to escape all the sexual content on the Internet and magazines and TV. “Studies show that more than 75% of primetime TV programs contain sexual content, and the mention of sex on TV can occur up to eight to 10 times in a single hour” (Why Schools Can’t Teach Sex Ed in the Internet Age). Billboards and magazines feature half-dressed or nude women and sex tips “that’ll drive your partner crazy.” 

The Internet features porn and ads for “singles in your area looking to hookup.” The exposure starts young. “A national sample study of 1,500 10 to 17-year-olds showed that about half of those that use the Internet had been exposed to online porn in the last year” (Why Schools Can’t Teach Sex Ed in the Internet Age). Then what about those people actively watching porn? Many people believe they can learn from porn and use what they see, in real life. However, porn provides unrealistic and unsafe expectations. 

For example, “Our study did indicate some specific health harms that may have resulted from using pornography as ‘sex education’, some young men did not seem to realize that lubricant and slow penetration are an important part of preventing discomfort for their partner during anal sex” (Pornography and Young People’s Health: Evidence from the UK sixteen18 Project). Thus, a safe environment to discuss and correct any information students are receiving should be created. 

President of the Fremont school board, Lara Calvert-York, says “let’s do it in classroom setting, with highly qualified, credentialed teachers, who know how to have those conversations,” (Why Schools Can’t Teach Sex Ed in the Internet Age). It is important for sex education programs to help provide the correct information, so people have a realistic expectation of sex and can practice safe and comfortable intercourse. An in-depth sex education program not only teaches students about intercourse, but also allows students to know more about their bodies. 

Therefore, sex education should start very young and be explained in a way a child’s mind can understand. According to AboutKidsHealth, parents should start teaching their children about their genitals and how to communicate topics such as injuries and sexual abuse at about one or two years old. Then parents and preschools can start teaching children about consent and body parts at around ages two to four. Between kindergarten and third grade, students can begin learning the different sexualities and that gender is not based off a person’s genitals. Many people might find teaching these subjects are controversial, but in order to keep up with times and society, they will soon be vital. 

Five to eight-year old children can also be taught how to use the Internet safely and at the end of this age range, they should start being introduced to the basics of puberty. A growing number of children hit puberty before the age of 10. Pre-teens then can start learning the basis behind safe sex and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). They should also be taught what makes a good relationship versus what makes a bad one, and this can cover both platonic and romantic relationships. They should also be made aware how the media can influence one’s self-image and why they should not send nude photos of themselves. 

Finally, teenagers should be given more in-depth talks about intercourse and STIs. They should be taught the different contraception options and about pregnancy. They should also continue learning about healthy and unhealthy relationships. According to AboutKidsHealth, “learning how to practise safer sex also means learning how alcohol and drugs impact judgment.”

Many schools across the nation feature abstinence-only-until-married programs. These programs teach students to just say no to sex until they are married. They preach have one partner your whole life. How practical is that though? A teenager who wants to have sex will find a way to have sex, even if that sex is not safe. The AMA Journal of Ethics writes, “it is unethical to censor vital life-saving information from people who need it. Young people have the right to medically accurate, honest information about sex and sexual health.” 

Students should be provided an education that encourages them to lead a safe sexual lifestyle if they choose to have intercourse. Abstinence-only programs can be more harmful than good. These programs are failing to equip students with skills and knowledge they need to live safe, healthy, successful lives. “A 2004 report compiled at the request of Representative Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) found that 80 percent of the most popular curricula used by federally funded abstinence-only education programs distorts information about the effectiveness of contraceptives and condoms, misrepresents the risks of abortion, blurs religion and science, treats stereotypes about girls and boys as scientific fact, and contains basic scientific errors” (Hauser, Debra). 

Along with teaching safe sex techniques, teachers should assure students it is okay to wait to have sex. There is no need for a student to feel they are being pressured into having sex. Comprehensive sex education programs are there to provide information to those who are ready and willing to have sex and preparing those who are waiting to lose their virginities. Sex education programs could also be used to reduce sexual assault/abuse rates and teach students how to handles those situations. It could also help students learn how to report a sexual abuse. In a study 1,671 students at Columbia University, “One in ten students reported having experienced penetrative sexual assault since starting college; however, and consistent with previous research, the number was far higher for women (14 percent) than it was for men (5 percent)” (Lehmiller, Justin). 

It has been found that abstinence-only programs don’t have any impact on sexual violence statistics. Programs that focus on teaching abstinence only, do not help to prevent sexual violence because they are teaching students thinking these people will wait till marriage to have sex. The best way to prevent these heinous acts is to teach students to say no and how to stay out of and get out of situations where they could be sexually assaulted. It also teaches students when to give consent and what to do if someone is not respecting one’s decision not to have sex. In-depth sex education programs would also teach people what to do if they have been sexually assaulted; where to report it, what legal actions to follow, and how to cope with the painful experience. These lessons would also teach students that men can be raped as well, which means men would feel more comfortable coming forward with their assaults.

However, many parents believe they should have the responsibility of teaching their children these sensitive topics, not their teachers. Parents know their child’s maturity level and know when they should talk about these topics. Not all students are at the same maturity level, so why teach all of them sensitive sexual subjects at the same time? Also, what is said behind the doors of a classroom can never be known by the parents. This means parents can’t control everything their children are being taught. According to Catholic Parents Online, “Catholic and Christian students who have been taught by their parents that premarital sex, birth control and abortion are wrong must sit in class and hear an authority figure contradict their beliefs,”. This causes students to question or go against their religious beliefs because they are being taught two very different lessons. This is confusing to their easily influenced minds.

Despite the arguments against sex education in public schools, more in-depth and detailed sex education programs should be implemented across the country. If a parent does not want their child involved there are ways to keep their child from participating in these courses, such as talking to the principal and having the child sit out or by putting that child in a private school. More detailed sex education programs that start in kindergarten and follow a student through their public school career will leave a lasting impression on students. These students will know about their bodies and how they work, know how to practice safe sex if they choose to have sex, and they will know how to handle sexual violence whether it happens to them or someone they know. 

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