Improving Sex Education

Staff writer: Olivia Ramirez

Many people in their early teen or preteen years will either have an awkward conversation with a parent about the basics of what sex is or they learn the basics from school. Some people receive both, but most people aren’t getting enough information.

B&B Pic

“The birds and the bees” is a common euphemism when talking about sex ed. Photo Credit: The Phoenix Chronicle

Sex education is held to an extremely low standard in the United States. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that some form of sex education is legally required in 22 and the District of Columbia. Of those states, only 12 mandate teaching about contraception and only seven require the information to be medically correct. A Low standard for such an important lesson leads to an increase in teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and infections (STDs/STIs) and questionable situations.

Flag People

This photo depicting young people in front of the Pride flag represents the students being left out of an already poor sex education. Photo Credit: A Medium Corporation

Quality sex education starts with inclusivity. This means no more separating students by gender and including diverse discussions into the education. It is not mandated by any law in any state to teach LGBTQ+ inclusive sex education. In fact, six states (Alabama, Texas, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Arizona and Utah have taken theirs away as recently as the last six months to one year) have banned it all together with what is referred to “No Promo Homo laws”.

No Promo Homo laws ban teachers from including LGBTQ+ people, issues, and history in their lessons. These laws only allow negative LGBTQ+ discussions. This pushes a community of children, who, according to CDC statistics are already more likely to contract HIV and other STDs than heterosexual and cisgender people, into the dark about safe sex.

Excluding some students from sex ed or not having adequate education encourages children to teach themselves, and, unfortunately, many are learning from pornography. Pornography is an inaccurate and dangerous teacher. It does not emphasize consent and creates an unrealistic expectation for boys about women and for gay teens. These expectations and poor education perpetuate the rape culture we see in American society.

Students need to be taught safe sex. Seventy-three percent of high schools teach abstinence-only sex education. Safe sex means more than abstinence. Abstinence is a valid choice for teens and should be taught, but only teaching abstinence does nothing to reduce the amount of teen pregnancies and STDs.

Teaching students about both contraception and protection is extremely important. According to The etr. Blog, “Among [ninth and tenth grade students] currently [sexually] active students, about 1 in 4 reported experiencing condom breakage. Similarly, about 1 in 4 reported a condom slipping off.” This is a result of poor education. These students did not know how to correctly use and remove the condom.

Accidents like those can result in how teen girls get pregnant and can lead to STDs/STIs. The Guttmacher Institute reported, “35% [of high schools] taught students how to correctly use a condom.”

Students need to know there are condoms for all types of sex. Students should be taught about dental dams and female internal condoms. As well as condoms, all forms of contraception should be a large topic in sex ed, such as birth control, IUDs, etc.

Author’s Note: In multiple articles regarding sex education I came across in my research, it was reported that many high school students didn’t have a lot of basic information about when to use protection. However, not all of the statistics I came across were sourced, which prompted me to conduct a poll of my own.

In a poll of 40 junior and senior high school students, only half knew of all proper times to use protection. Students not only need to know how to properly use protection and where to get it, but also when to use it. The majority of students have never even heard of a dental dam.

This poll was taken by the author. The students in the poll are all members of the Dual Enrollment Program at Kennesaw State University, and were contacted via a group message on GroupMe.

Dental Dams

This is a dental dam, a thin sheet of latex. Photo Credit: Top Quality Manufacturing Inc.

Tony Phung, junior at North Cobb High School and fellow member of the Dual Enrollment Program at Kennesaw State University, reported in response to the poll, he has taken a sex education class twice, and was never told, what seems like common sense information about safe sex.

All students should be taught about STDs/STIs. In some states, like Georgia, it is legally mandated that students are informed about HIV, but HIV is the only STD mandated to be taught. When students aren’t taught about STDs/STIs they are less likely to get tested.

Students don’t know the symptoms to look for. Some STDs have no symptoms or flu-like symptoms. Frequent STD testing should be encouraged for sexually active students. Teenagers should also be informed that many STDs/STIs are treatable and the ones that aren’t can be managed.

With Planned Parenthood being removed from Title X, free STD testing is harder to come by. There are, however, still centers offering free or low-cost testing. Teens need to be taught what they are, where they are and how to set up an appointment.

No Means No

This “NO MEANS NO” poster is meant to spread awareness about consent. Photo Credit: Mad Bird Studio

Another key point that needs to be brought up in sex ed is consent. Consent should be taught, because in many rape cases, especially involving young men, people claim ignorance. Basic consent should be taught as the bare minimum. Teens should be taught that if consent is unclear or their partner is under the influence, they should assume the answer is no. Assuming the answer to be no will never get someone into a situation where they might be accused of rape or sexual assault.

Improving sex education in America will create a safer and healthier generation of adults. Teaching safe sex helps everyone. Teaching abstinence-only sex ed doesn’t help anyone, even the 52 percent of teens who choose to be abstinent through high school. Eventually, almost everyone will have sex, and it is best for everyone to know how to do it safely.

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