If you’ve ever seen the 2004 hit movie Mean Girls, you may recall laughing at a scene in which the gym teacher is giving a ridiculously blunt sex-ed lesson that consisted of the line: “Don’t have sex. Because you will get pregnant and die.”
While we may have found this scene humorous at the time, it turns from laugh-out-loud hilarious to just plain ironic when you realize that this is basically where we are in terms of sexual education in the United States’ education system today.
Despite bragging of progress to the rest of the world, America’s beliefs toward the topic of sex ed, prevent teenagers from learning crucial knowledge they will need to engage safely in sex during adolescence or later in life. As the current sexual education curriculum in public schools is primarily abstinence-only-until-marriage education, teenagers are not taught how to safely engage in sex but rather the dangers of it, with a vague, but ominous warning that sex is dangerous.
These initiatives have proven themselves to be ineffective as they have failed to reduce teen pregnancy rates or the spread of sexually transmitted diseases among people under the age of 25. This should come as no surprise; with the way the topic is addressed in schools, the idea of sex is shrouded with an aura of mystery that is more alluring to teengars than discouraging. However, despite these results, the United States government continues to fuel 1.5 billion dollars annually into these programs.
Along with this, these abstinence-only programs are not only ineffective among young people, but also potentially harmful to their education. Due to the religious influence at play in our country’s treatment of the subject, about 80 percent of the sexual education curriculum produced by the United States Department of Health and Human Services contains completely false or distorted information, clouded by religious biases. Even though sexual education is only mandatory in 33 states, only 13 of these states require the information taught to be medically accurate. Therefore, American teenagers in the public school system are not only under-informed on sexual education, but misinformed as well.
On the other hand, schools who have implemented more comprehensive sex ed and STD prevention programs have experienced a general decline in their teenage pregnancy rates and overall rates of sexual activity among students. These programs differ from the abstinence-only programs as they cover different methods of contraception, HIV/STD prevention, abortion, and the overall importance of safe sex.
Although sex can be dangerous, especially for teenagers, keeping them in the dark about the subject can actually encourage sexual relations more than discourage. Therefore, if teenagers are bound to engage in sex regardless, it is only logical for them to be given the tools and knowledge to do it safely.
Let’s talk about sex, America. I think it’s time.