When “don’t have sex” isn’t enough

Chances are that you had sex education at some point in your life, and chances are it wasn’t the best. Watching a birth video surrounded by 20 other teenagers isn’t super fun.

Depending on where you live, however, the quality of your sex-ed can differ greatly. Some schools only provide a biological explanation of sex, and then tell you not to do it, while others show you a dozen different methods of contraception.

Why? Because about 30 percent of Americans are still in favor of “abstinence-only” education, which requires that students are taught not to have sex until marriage.

Is there anything wrong with promoting abstinence? No.

But should educators assume all students will choose abstinence? Also no.

The average American will hit puberty around age 12, but won’t get married until their late 20s. Considering that our hormones are most volatile in our late teens, it’s reasonable to assume that people are going to have sex prior to marriage.

Some people will choose to wait. Good for them — I’m in no way arguing that we should expect everyone to be having sex. The fact is that some people are, and our education should represent that.

One student who answered my anonymous survey said that at his/her school, sex-ed was limited.

“The first time I went to fool around with someone it was super awkward. I didn’t even totally know how to use a condom,” they said.


In-depth, STIs, contraception, etc. — 2 votes
The basics, “this is a condom” — 2 votes
N/A, never had sex ed — 0 votes
Basically just abstinence — 0 votes


States’ policies differ greatly, from few requirements to numerous requirements.

When it comes to sex:

  • Only 24 states and D.C. mandate any sex education.

  • 22 of those require both HIV and sex-ed.

  • 16 states have no requirements for HIV/AIDS education.

  • Only 13 states require that the instruction be medically accurate.

Yes, you read that right. Only 26 percent of states require a comprehensive and thorough sex education. While it is still taught accurately in other places, in 37 states, teachers are allowed to say “oral sex causes pregnancy” or any other absurdity.

So, where sex-ed does happen, what’s required?

  • Only 18 states require information about contraception.

  • 11 states require that abstinence is covered, while 26 mandate it be stressed.

  • 19 require teaching that sex is only acceptable if one is married .

  • 13 states require discussion of sexual orientation.

  • 9 of those mandate that sex-ed is inclusive. 4 have “negative” mandates, meaning that if sexual orientation is discussed, orientations that are not heterosexual are portrayed NEGATIVELY.

Let me repeat that.

Alabama, South Carolina, Texas and Utah mandate that different sexual orientations be portrayed negatively.

Alabama’s code, for example, states, “Classes must emphasize, in a factual manner and from a public health perspective, that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under the laws of the state.”

Arizona and Oklahoma also have requirements about not teaching HIV to accommodate other orientations.

Everyone is free to make their own sexual choices. And yes, some young people do make some poor sexual choices. But they should not be written off. Promote abstinence, but also promote safe, healthy sexual relationships. Promote a sexual education where students learn all they need to know, regardless of orientation.

Originally published at gw.therival.news by Emily Milakovic on 2.12.17.
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