Abstinence-only Sex Education
The United States government claims that abstinence-only is the best form of sexual education, however I believe that abstinence-only programs are counterproductive. They ignore contraceptive effectiveness, disregard spreading of sexually transmitted infections, and prevent the exploration of sexuality.
Abstinence-only sexual education is ideologically skewed because it focuses on teaching only about abstinence and how to maintain it. Rather than providing information about safe ways to have intercourse, it is encouraged to abstain from all sexual activities until marriage. Emphasizing abstinence in sexual education is positively correlated with unsafe sexual practices. Continuing to educate individuals in this way will further put America’s youth at risk due to lack of valuable information being distributed.
How it works
Among every developed nation, America is ranked the highest for teenage pregnancy. This is partly due to the lack of sexual education provided in public schools (Stanger-Hall, Kathrin F., and David W. Hall 9). Because abstinence is so strongly encouraged, contraceptive methods aren’t discussed. If adolescents aren’t having sex because the curriculum tells them not to, then why would protection need to be discussed? The problem is, adolescents aren’t always going to listen. Abstinence is presented as “”the best”” form of safe sex, however best and most effective are not synonymous. In addition to that concept, abstinence is defined as no existing sexual activity of an individual, so it is redundant to present it as the safest sexual option when no form of intercourse is being demonstrated. Preventing teenageres from having sex is an unwinnable battle, but teaching them how to partake in the activity safety is controllable. These courses exaggerate the the failure of various types of contraceptives such as condoms and birth control, seemingly in attempt to scare teenagers from having sex. As a result, teenagers don’t prioritize protection because they’re under the impression it’s ineffective anyways. Proper education on effectiveness and usage alone could decrease teenage pregnancy rates.
Adolescence make up one-quarter of the sexually active population, however they account for nearly half of the 18.9 million cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) presented each year in the United States (Grose 742). In abstinence-only education courses, infections spreadable through sexual contact is a topic of discussion. The curriculum describes symptoms of every STI, giving the impression that death is always the result, although that is only the case in extreme situations. They even go as far as showing gruesome pictures of infected genitalia. One student from Gardner’s research project addressing responses on sexual education described these methods as “”scare tactics (134)”” to keep adolescents from having sexual intercourse. Rather than providing information about how to prevent STIs or what to do if you think you’ve been infected, the precautionary measure is always abstinence and nothing else. Sexually transmitted diseases are an epidemic in need of urgent preventionary measures; simply taking time to thoroughly educate the adolescent population has the potential to save lives.
Abstinence-only programs stress that sex is inappropriate to not only partake in, but to even be fully educated about. Naturally, as adolescents get older, their sexual curiosities and desires grow. Repercussions of sexual intercourse such as unplanned pregnancy and increased risk of STIs are discussed, but only aiming towards the heterosexual population. While pregnancy isn’t a risk of homosexual relationships, sexually transmitted diseases are and it is important to educate members of the LGBT community how to protect themselves, too. Programs teaching this curriculum have traditional views on sexual scripts and gender ideology. While sexual education has the potential to be transformative for the younger population in regards to sexuality support, it is instead dismissive of any activity or positive feeling regarding sexuality. Sexuality does not have to be sexual, but in the event that it is, the proper information should be displayed. There is a fine line between encouraging sexual activity and preparing for sexual activities. Continuing to ignore the needs of developing adolescence is unlikely to move society closer to empowerment of each sexuality and gender identity. (Grose 742) Discovering and embracing sexuality should not be a taboo in the 21st century.
The current education systems are not necessarily the first choice in what schools and communities want to convey to the prospering youth. In order to receive full funding, the government mandates the education of abstinence-only. Schools are left with the ultimatum of either teaching the abstinence-only curriculum or receiving no government funding for the curriculum of their choice. Because of federally funded regulations these programs cannot include information about contraception or safer sex practices (Stanger-Hall, Kathrin F., and David W. Hall 9). Additionally, sexual education courses are not mandated, the government only provides a guideline to follow, it is the school’s decision whether or not they want to adopt the responsibility of teaching sexual education. Teaching nothing about sexual education is comparably as effective as only teaching one method.
As an alternative to the current curriculum, providing adolescents with a comprehensive sexual education would promote healthier sexuality. A comprehensive program is characterized by giving full information about the responsibilities paired with having sexual intercourse. This keeps the risk of pregnancy and STIs in the curriculum, but instead of exaggerating the possibility of those outcomes, the course would give real life examples on how to prevent those. Condoms, birth control, and other forms of contraceptives would be covered in depth, providing the pros and cons for each option. Abstinence is not realistically possible for every individual to achieve until marriage and a comprehensive sexual education course would address that fact. Rather than highlighting the demand of abstinence, it is vital to provide adolescents with the proper tools to make well thought-out and educated decisions about their current and/or future sexual activities (Grose 742).
Abstinence would be a good view on sex if the world was perfect. However, because this program currently fails to educate on contraceptive effectiveness, the spreadability of sexually transmitted diseases, and healthy human sexuality, America’s youth is in danger. Sexual education needs to expand to deeper possibilities about required knowledge and understanding about healthy sexuality (Gilbert 233). Providing a comprehensive program for adolescents to learn from not only a more educated youth, but eventually a more educated adult population. It is the job of educators to prepare adolescents for adulthood, in every subject of matter. Once that is done, the future and safety of Americans will begin to improve.