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Everyone remembers that dreaded day in elementary school. That day when the boys and girls are split into two rooms, and they learn how their bodies are going to develop. Then, skip ahead to middle school. Again, boys and girls are split up and are taught what the inside of the body looks like. Skip ahead once more to health class in 9th grade; one trimester of learning that having sex is bad, abstinence is the only way, no one will want to marry you if you have sex. This is public schools’ only sex education program. This program, that the government has claimed to be the best thing for teenagers, is jocular. Kids are not receiving a proper sex education, which results in them not knowing how to have safe sex and turning to alternative sources that increase the likelihood of sexual abuse (cause and effect). The public school system needs to develop a more comprehensive sex education program to enforce how to have safe sex and to help end sexual violence.
Because the public school system does not provide a satisfactory sex education program, kids aren’t being taught how to have safe sex, which increases sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy among teenagers. A comprehensive sex education program would include teaching kids how to use the different types of contraceptives, like condoms, in addition to teaching abstinence. In general, comprehensive sex education programs show that teaching kids how to use condoms properly does increase the use of them. By increasing the use of contraceptives such as condoms, there is a decrease in the risk of developing sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Condoms are an effective way to eliminate the risks of contracting an STD, which an increasing number of teenagers are getting due to lack of education about them. The job of the school system is to accurately educate and protect students against diseases that can be easily avoided, yet the schools are not doing anything, and therefore not protecting the needs of the youth. Additionally, a study by the National Survey of Family Growth found that girls ages 15-19 who received a comprehensive sex education program were 50% less likely to get pregnant than girls who received an abstinence only education. From 2015-2016, the birth rates of girls ages 15-19 declined by 1%, a nationwide low of 3,941,109 births. Though we cannot track exactly why this occurred, a doctor at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Elise Berlan, believes the decline was due to an increase in knowledge and access to contraceptives. With these kinds of results, the only logical thing to do is to switch to a more comprehensive program, where kids learn about the use of contraceptives in order to protect themselves from contracting STDs or becoming a teenage parent.
By not teaching kids how to engage in safe sex, kids turn to alternative sources to learn about sex, which often involve violence against women. When teenagers aren’t taught how to have sex in a safe environment, they take matters into their own hands in order to learn. The most common method of doing so is through pornography. In her book Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, author Gail Dines has given credence to this belief by stating that 88% of pornography shows some type of violence against women. If this violence is what teenagers internalize as what sex is, the amount of sexual assaults are never going to get better because the people who are committing these assaults don’t understand that what they’re doing is wrong. A study published in 2011, that focused around college fraternity boys showed that 83% that used “mainstream” pornography showed more intent to rape a woman if assured they wouldn’t be caught. If these college kids were taught at an earlier age what consent is and how to engage in safe sex, I believe these statistics would go down. But, instead of teaching them, the education system left them to try to figure things out by themselves. Jennifer Johnson, Ph.D., stated in an interview, “pornography is strongly correlated with factors widely recognized as contributors to sexual violence, including defining masculinity as embodied through violence, hostile attitudes towards women, and gender inequality. Furthermore, the average age of first exposure to pornography is around 12 years of age”. The twelve year old boys who are going to be watching porn presumably their whole adolescence are the ones that need a proper sex education the most. Since boys begin watching pornography at a school age, the school system intervening before boys get to the point of wanting to watch porn to learn about sex, makes sense. If the public school systems taught a comprehensive sex education program, there would be no need for people to start watching porn; therefore, the number of sexual assaults on women would presumably go down.
Many people believe that teaching kids how to have sex will result in them either initiating sex or having more sex; however, many studies have shown that the opposite has occurred. Since 1997, the federal government spent $1.5 billion enforcing the abstinence-only sex education program. Many studies done over the years have shown that this program has not been effective in helping teenagers stop the inaction of sex. Comprehensive programs in general show that teaching kids how to use contraceptives does help teenagers reduce the frequency of sexual behavior, or reduce the number of sexual partners they have. A majority of research has shown these same results, yet no one is doing anything to make the program better. So is this really the reason why people don’t want teenagers to learn about sex, or is there some other reason? Historically, sex has always been a topic that is rarely discussed. In modern times, people are becoming more open to the idea of talking about sex, which could in return make some of the older generation, who hold a myopic viewpoint about sex, uncomfortable. Unfortunately, this older generation is making all the decisions for us. Teenagers do not get a say in their own education; instead, adults decide what is best for school age kids. These adult’s uncomfortableness in sex has resulted in the current sex education program to cause more harm than good. An analysis of the federally funded abstinence-only program found that 80% of what was being taught contained false or misleading information. This included false information about the effectiveness of contraceptives and false risks of abortion. Not only that, but religious beliefs and stereotypes about males and females were presented as scientific facts. This program is pejorative and is taking away students basic human right of information. Compare sex education with driving. When a person gets into a car crash, they aren’t told to never drive again; they are taught safety measures like seatbelts and airbags to make sure when they drive the next time, they are safe. Sex education should be the same way. Thinking no teenagers are going to have sex is unrealistic, so instead of telling them not to, the program should be centered around how to keep kids safe from things like STDs and pregnancy.
Sex education may not have been everyone’s favorite day in school, but there is no denying the importance. By introducing a comprehensive sex education program that accurately teaches students how to use contraceptives and how to have sex, the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, and sexual abuse will decrease. The pernicious abstinence-only program that the federal government currently funds has proven to be ineffective. It is time to remove the antiquated beliefs of the past and start protecting the needs of the youth.
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