A Texas high school has been dealing with a chlamydia outbreak, the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States. Yet, this high school, like so many others, does not teach sex education to its students. Presumably, the idea is that if we don’t inform our students about sex, they won’t have sex.
Despite hard evidence year after year that abstinence-only education leads to higher rates of STDs and unplanned pregnancy, adults across the country continue to refuse to give information to kids who need to know.
Blinded by fear of uncontrollable sexual passion and idealized images of the purity and innocence of childhood, parents and educators are hurting the very children they seek to help. Knowledge gives us control, and the attempt to withhold knowledge from our youth is nothing more than a blatant attempt to control their sexual activity. It is an unrealistic and abusive approach.
To withhold information that can prevent teenagers from suffering the effects of disease and pregnancy is to set them on the road to unnecessary pain, discomfort and suffering. The consequences of unprotected sex are not a young person’s fault when they were never given the information to prevent those consequences from occurring.
Indeed, withholding such vital information is controlling, manipulative and abusive. To intentionally withhold information from people who need it is a violation of their basic human rights.
Adults who are trying to win the battle against the enemy “sex” are fighting a losing battle. Young people have strong sexual impulses, and telling them to ignore their own developmental milestones is both foolish and cruel.
Natural human development includes sexual development. Wanting to have sex is a normal, natural and healthy part of growing up. Sexual desire is not, of its own accord, dangerous or threatening.
What our youth need from the adults in their life is to acknowledge the reality of sexual development and to equip them with the tools for making healthy decisions. They do not need to be shamed for their natural impulses, nor denied access to life-saving information. They need to be invited into dialogue about what it means to have sexual feelings and how to deal with those feelings in appropriate and healthy ways.
When we talk openly and honestly to our kids about sex, we give them tools and we give them control. That’s a good thing. The same studies that prove abstinence-only education doesn’t work show us that comprehensive sex education not only reduces STDs and unplanned pregnancy, it also reduces teenage sexual activity.
Teenagers are human beings. They aren’t stupid and they aren’t naive. They live in a highly sexualized society that sends out all kinds of conflicting messages. It’s time we admit that we don’t own our children and we can’t control our teenagers. The best thing we can do is give them all the information they need so that they can make the best possible decisions in taking ownership of their own lives.