Waiting for sex? Fine. Waiting to teach? Not so much.
by Angelina Caruso
I’m not anti-abstinence, personally or politically (though it blows my mind that its an issue that’s becoming increasingly politicized.) Therefore, I think it’s fairer to say that I’m pro-sex education, not anti-abstinence only education. Language is of particular importance here when dealing with such touchy issues as morality and judgment. In regards to the argument for abstinence only education, I understand the anxieties about exposing young students to the dirty world of sex, but, in reality, they know about it already. Many of them have even been there. An outstanding number of high school students and even middle school students are sexually active. I have trouble finding the moral merit in a supposedly morally based argument for a singular focus on abstinence, when there are eighth graders having unprotected and potentially life-threatening sex.
There have been numerous studies that point to the ineffectiveness of abstinence only education. There is little to no evidence that they decrease the likelihood of premarital sex, STD rates in young people, or teen pregnancies. Preaching moral imperatives without explaining or recognizing other options is not an effective teaching tool for teenagers in any department, let along sex- a topic that, by its very nature, often ignites a desire to rebel or experiment
I’m all for including abstinence as a central part of sex education; there’s no denying that kids would be safer if they weren’t having sex. But there’s no question in my mind that the curriculum should cover safe sex, condom demonstrations, information about pregnancy and abortion (beyond it being what can happen because of “immoral choices”) and the realities of STDS, especially HIV/AIDS. As a society, we have the moral responsibility to help protect young people, not shelter them from a world that they’re absolutely guaranteed to come in contact with, contact that can be devastating if they’re not informed. I believe that teaching the basics should be mandated, while being mindful of appropriateness, accessibility and respect for those who are uncomfortable. I completely agree that abstinence is the safest form of protection and that casual, unprotected sex, especially at a young age, can be physically and emotionally destructive. Those who lobby for sex education aren’t calling for school sponsored orgies or lessons about the best sexual positions, but are instead recognizing the need that’s presented and dealing with it in the most safe and responsible way possible.