Knowledge about any topic or subject is never unnecessary. The same way children should be educated about sex. It is not something that can be avoided; one of the main reasons for this is the media. The openness of the media has led the children to come into contact with such realities at a very young age. Education about such facts gives more knowledge to the students, it tells them the consequences, which will result from sexual behavior and acts. Having the information will induce a thought process that previously did not exist. Sex education then will automatically lead to abstinence on the part of students.
It is human nature to be curious and inquisitive about everything. A person will always want to do something that is not allowed; the same behavior is noticed in children, probably more so than adults. Children will always go towards activities that are off limit or are not allowed. On the other hand, if they are given information about the activity or action they are less likely to be inclined towards it. Thus, the argument that comes out is that the students should be given sex education, so that they can make a right decision at the right time.
From the figures up till 2006, it has been determined that six out of ten teenage girls have been sexually active before the age of eighteen. At the same time, more than five out of ten boys have been sexually active before the age of eighteen. (Abma JC et al. 2002) The American youth is less likely to use contraceptives when compared to the youth of Canada, England, France and Sweden. This has led to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases in the American youth. Nine million cases of sexually transmitted diseases are reported every year in America. (Weinstock H et al. 2004)
All this happens mainly because most of the teenagers and the American youth have not received any form of formal sex education either from parents or teachers. Any information or knowledge that reaches the youth is through the media, which shows a romanticized version of the real thing.
Parent usually want their children to abstain from the act thus they take a negative stance towards sex education. Children are not told about the options that they have and the precautions that they should take, if they choose to be sexually active. In schools, abstinence is given more emphasis as compared to birth control and contraception. During the mid 90’s, the percentage of students who were given instructions about birth control was higher as compared to the percentage of students in the early 2000’s. (GuttMacher Institute, 2006)
There has been a paradigm shift in the teacher’s perspective on sex education. Previously teachers would provide students with all the necessary information for precaution but recently the teachers have started to emphasize on abstinence as the only way. The problem with this approach is that it frustrates the student. It arouses an interest in the students to try the act and without proper information and guidance it leads to many problems for the students.
The youth of America experiences many problems with respect to sex education. Once the teenager has been sexually active without taking the necessary precaution, exposure to many sexually transmitted diseases has increased. Also, in the case of girls, without the use of proper birth control measures there is a high chance of pregnancy. These consequences can leave a large impact on the teenager’s life. At this young age, it becomes very difficult to deal with an unexpected and unwanted pregnancy. There are many social, financial and emotional costs that the teenager will have to deal with. In the case of a pregnancy, most of these costs are borne by the girl. (Collins, et al. 2002)
In an ideal situation, abstinence is the best solution. The youth would not engage in sexual activities till they come of age or get married, but the situation is not ideal. It is influenced by many other factors over which nobody has control. Also, many things have changed since the time that such a solution was possible. The youth of today is more aware of the environment and their surroundings. Thus, the solution that needs to be adapted should be one that fits in with today’s environment and situation.
The benefits of abstinence are much more than being sexually active. These benefits include protection from the biological changes and consequences, which occur after being sexually active. It eliminates the risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. When teenagers abstain they are protecting themselves from sexual violence and coercion, which may be used against them. Also, girls usually loose their self-esteem or they feel depressed and regret their decision to become active. Another benefit is that abstinence makes the act seem more special. It increases the self-restraint level of individuals as well as their self-esteem. The perception is that by waiting to become sexually active you are being unselfish, this will later lead to a healthy and strong relationship with the partner. (Institute for Research and Evaluation, 2007)
The solution should be compatible, thus we can provide a mixture of both abstinence and education. The benefit of this type of information to the students is that it promotes abstinence but at the same time acknowledges the fat that there are some students who will become sexually active. For such students they provide information on topics such as contraception, sexually transmitted diseases, birth control and HIV. This type of education is more helpful as compared to information, which only asks the teenagers to abstain from the act.
When provided with such education, the awareness level of students increases. This helps in protecting oneself from sexual abuse. It has been reported that many girls who have had their first sexual experience have been forced or did not know what was happening to them. (Collins et al. 2002) Such problems arise when the children do not have enough information to understand that what is happening is wrong. Sex education can help deal with such issues and decrease the number of sexual abuses on young children especially girls.
A study was carried out which found that when abstinence was taught to students with comprehensive sex education program, the initiation level of students towards sexual activities decreased by 40 per cent. Research has also indicated that if sex education is only based on abstinence, there is no guarantee that the sexual activity among teenagers will be delayed, but it may lead them to not use contraceptives which causes a major health risk for them.
Another research by Surgeon General David Satcher in June 2001, has shown that if comprehensive sex education is given to students and teenagers, it leads to decreased sexual activity, frequent use of contraception and a less frequent change in the sexual partners. (The GuttMacher, 2006)
The government’s stance on this is basically abstinence but there are some states which have given schools their consent to teach sex education. The government has outlined an eight point definition which states that sex outside of wedlock is wrong and harmful. There are some states which have adopted a comprehensive policy for sex education but even they have defined it in vague terms and there is no definite answer as to what will be taught. This leads to the teachers designing the curricula for sex education in their schools. By 2006, there were 35 states in the United States which had authorized schools to teach sex education and education about HIV – AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. (The GuttMacher, 2006)
In my opinion, sex education should be given to students to increase their awareness about the subject. There is not harm in providing them with the information as to what the response should be, incase of such problems or situations. The youth of today is sexually active; there is no denying that. The smart thing to do is to accept this and take the necessary action to ensure that they are safe and are aware of the consequences that their decision will have on them and those around them. Abstinence is the first thing that should be taught; it is the most basic and the best technique. Incase, this technique does not work and is not successful in making sure that the youth is abstaining, and then a comprehensive education program should be devised. This ensures that the consequences, such as pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, decreases.
Abma J.C. et al., 2002 Teenagers in the United States: sexual activity, contraceptive use, and childbearing, Vital and Health Statistics, 2004, Series 23, No. 24.
Collins et al. 2002, Abstinence Only vs. Comprehensive Sex Education, AIDS Research Institute, 2009. Web.
GuttMacher Institute, 2006, Facts on Sex Education in the United States, Web.
The Institute for Research and Evaluation, 2007, Abstinence or Comprehensive Sex Education, Web.
Weinstock H et al., Sexually transmitted diseases among American youth: incidence and prevalence estimates, 2000, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2004, 36(1):6–10.