LOADING

Type to search

Opinions

U.S. sexual education fails to inform its youth

Share

It’s everywhere. On TV, billboards, phones, Ipods, computers and accessible through any technical device you can think of. We can read about it in newspapers and magazines. We can sometimes even hear it through the walls.

Sex.

But despite its pervasiveness, we really don’t know much about it.

Some are inclined to blame a “sexualized” culture for sexually related societal problems, such as teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. A ‘sexualized’ culture has nothing to do with our sexual societal problems. Rather, the problems lie within a sexual education system that is not only failing to educate young people, but is also harming society as a whole.

A 2012 report by Guttmacher Institute, an international organization that researches sexual and reproductive health and education, showed that there are two main approaches for teaching sexual education in the United States — ‘abstinence-only’ or comprehensive sexual education.

Abstinence-only sexual education teaches young people that abstaining from sex until marriage is the best means to avoid sexually transmitted diseases (STD), the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and unwanted pregnancies. On the other hand, comprehensive sexual education does not only teach students the benefit of delaying sex until they are ready, but students are also taught how to protect themselves from STDs and pregnancies if they do decided to have sex.

Although the latter is more beneficial, neither of them are useful for providing an accurate view of sex and sexuality. We need to approach sexuality differently if we want to significantly decrease STD rates among young people and lower teen pregnancy.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, STDs among U.S. teens are much higher when compared with teens from Canada and Western Europe. A 2010 report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, showed that nearly half of the 19 million new STDs each year affect young people aged 15 to 24 years old. Even though the number of STDs has declined, it still costs the U.S. health care system more than 17 billion dollars every year.

The United States also has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates of all the industrialized countries. Some states have higher rates than others — a 2011 report by The National Campaign to prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy illustrated that Mississippi, New Mexico and Arkansas have the highest teen birth rate among girls age 15-19, with over 5 births per 100 girls. These are the same states that provided a stricter abstinence-only education than other states.

With misinformation, teens will also continue to put their health at risk even though they are striving to do the opposite.

A 2012 CDC National Health Statistic Report states that younger people in sexual relationships with their opposite sex partner, are now having oral sex before their first vaginal intercourse to maintain virginity or avoid pregnancy or risk for STDs. But as this research indicates, they are still placing themselves at risk of sexually transmitted infections (STI) or HIV before they are ever at risk of pregnancy.

In California, the birth rate has decreased to three births per 100 girls, but this rate could be lowered if we had better education. The 2003 California Comprehensive Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS Prevention Act had promised to reform sexual education in California’s high schools. However, legislators missed one significant point with this act: to make comprehensive sexual education a requirement. Public schools in California are not obligated to offer sex education — the law only mandates HIV/AIDS prevention education. However, if a school chooses to teach sex education, they need to follow specific laws regarding course content.

Two California mothers are currently filing a lawsuit against a Fresno County school district, claiming that students are misinformed and being denied critical instructions about sexual activity. The American Civil Liberties Union, who are representing the mothers, state that the Clover School District taught that “all people, even adults, should avoid sexual activity until they are married.” Other materials compare a woman who is not a virgin to a dirty shoe and suggest that men are unable to stop themselves once they become sexually aroused.”

Fresno county has the one of the highest teen pregnancy and STD cases in the state.

A failing sexual education system does not affect everyone equally. Despite the work the feminist movement has done since the 1960s, young teen girls are still deprived from self-knowledge and empowerment. According to a Guttmacher report published earlier this year, 41 percent of American teens aged 18 to 19 reported that they knew little or nothing about condoms and 75 percent said they knew little or nothing about the contraceptive pill.

Dr. Marie Cartier, a gender and women’s studies professor who teaches Feminist Ethics and Women as Agents of Change courses at CSUN, said that teaching women how their bodies work will not only encourage responsible sexuality, but also help to prevent unwanted pregnancy.

“I have seen way too many students for me to count who got in sexual situations that got over their head,” said Cartier. “Many of them haven’t had the basic mechanics of how they could get pregnant.”

At the same time, sex education should not only be focused on the issues of pregnancy and STD’s. It needs to include a much stronger emphasis on empowerment, respect and the importance of making wise decisions.

“You are walking around in a body and whether or not you decided to use that body sexually, you should have the information about how that body works,” said Cartier.

Without providing adequate exposure to the sexual realities that young people will face, we will continue to experience the aftershocks of unwanted pregnancy and STDs. At a certain point, we must respect our young people as truly adults in training if we ever desire for them to act accordingly.

Tags:

You Might also Like

69 Comments

  1. Kevin Banares Nov 3, 2012

    I thought this article was very understanding of how today’s population of kids are still not safe around sexual activity. I agree that sex education should be more specific and helpful to the kids around the United States. Kids these days do not know how to protect themselves from visitors like HIV or AIDS. Sex education should be elaborated a little more so kids can be aware of what the dangers are to having unprotected sex and etc.

    -Kevin Banares

  2. Shawntrice Young Nov 2, 2012

    Shawntrice Leichhardt-Young

  3. Shawntrice Young Nov 2, 2012

    I was very touched by your article. You pointed out some good facts about the causes of having sex. In the society that we live in today, alot of people are suffering behind sex because they don’t know the consequences that can come behind it. Everyone is intitled to their own opinions about whether or not to have sex now, wait until they get married or to remain abstinence. Some people fail to realize the education behind sex. Having sex has to be one of the biggest issues in society today, well in my eyes that’s how I feel. Many people don’t know the consequences that can come when having sex without using a condom, and having sex with more than one person without using a condom. That can lead to having and STD. Some std’s are curable and others aren’t. I’m sure most people would like to keep there bodies safe and protected, but when that peer pressure kicks in, it’s like most people forget and they are left with that pain in there bodies. Having sex could also be a wonderful thing. I think it’s beautiful when two people really love each other and decide to take the next step in their love life. Not all people wait until they are married to have sex, and most people don’t remain abstinence because everyone has their urges and needs. As long as YOU know the causes behind having sex when you don’t use a condom, or when you do, then you should be fine.

  4. Kim Oct 31, 2012

    I truly think we need to look at sex education in a different way. We have everyday proof that the “abstinence-only” and “comprehensive sexual education” programs aren’t working well enough to educate our teenagers well enough to bring down the rates of teenage pregnancies and STI/HIV in this country. Teaching girls how their body works and how to use it added in with helping girls learn how not to succumb to peer pressure with a form of sex education that works, might really help out those people ages 15 to 24 affected by being poorly educated.

  5. Kathy Oct 30, 2012

    I’m so glad that there are women out there with a voice. So many young teens have no clue what having sex could do to you. Not only can you become pregnant, or get AID’s or STD’s, but having sex can really screw with a persons mind. Teenage boys will say anything to a girl to get her to sleep with him. And once he, basically, forces her to have sex with him, he then leads her on to thinking that having sex without protection is acceptable and “okay.” More than that, a boy can and will lead a girl to believing that he loves her, only so that he can sleep with her. Sexual Education must be taught in schools, and it needs to strongly encourage people, especially young girls, that abstinance till marriage is the right path to choose.

  6. Elizabeth Vasquez Oct 29, 2012

    Wow, this article could not be anymore on point to the issue of sexual education. I too believe we need a better sex ed class that really teaches us all parts of sex because I sure did not learn anything from my class. I learned from others sources. But choosing to ignore the subject or paint a pretty picture for sex is not helping the youth instead it is hurting it. There are many things a girl should know about pregnancy because I just gave birth and let me tell you pregnancy is a crazy ride, especially with your hormones going crazy on you. Not only is pregnancy crazy but if you do not have a partner then it makes the situation 10000x harder, especially because there are too many single mothers out there and kids are acting irresponsibly. I agre with Dr.Cartier. Great article we need more articles like these to bring awareness to the education system.

  7. Amalia Zayas Oct 29, 2012

    Great article! I definitely agree with this issue you have addressed because it is something we need to really discuss as a society. I have realized how a “sexualized culture” has been the blame for these teen pregnancies as well as for sexually transmitted diseases. However, a sexualized culture cannot be entirely blamed for this. Not everyone is exposed to this sexualized culture. It definitely lies in the lack of sexual education, whether it be through an institution or at home. Some people believe it should be something solely discussed at home, but not all parents come from the same backgrounds and some might not have had access to sexual education themselves. I think it is highly important for the youth to have access to this through education when they don’t have access to this anywhere else. I myself was not much informed about sex in school. I don’t even recall if it was offered at school and it if it was, im sure I as a young teen chose a different course to take instead; thus, it should not only be offered, but enforced. I also think it is great that you stated, “At the same time, sex education should not only be focused on the issues
    of pregnancy and STD’s. It needs to include a much stronger emphasis on
    empowerment, respect and the importance of making wise decisions.” This is also a very important thing to learn alongside sexual education!

  8. Angelica Valiton Oct 29, 2012

    I agree with Professor Cartier. That we should at least inform the students/teens of their body and the consequences that can happen instead of telling them what to do. That way, they were at least warned of the issues and responsibilities, and now it is their choice to make a smart decision. I understand where they are coming from when they tell students to wait until they’re married, but you can’t just tell people that, it’s a personal choice. If people feel that they love the person enough and want to take that next step, that is entirely up to them. Educating students on condoms, contraceptives and getting tested will help decrease the growing rates of STDs and unwanted pregnancy.

  9. JuniDellenstedt Oct 29, 2012

    Mona, your article was very interesting and you deserve heaps of credit
    for writing an article on this super important matter. The fact is that
    young people are going to have sexual relations anyways – it doesn’t
    matter if someone tells them that the best way to avoid STD’s and early
    pregnancies is to simply wait until you get married. As a young adult
    you are curious – honestly, who wasn’t curious on sex growing up, and
    this curiousity will not go away, it will get bigger and bigger. I think that curiousity regarding sex is something that is impossible to change, which is why it’s absolutely stupid to teach young people abstinence only sexual education. Young adults want to have sex – so let them! But teach them how to do it, and how to be safe while doing it. It’s year 2012 – not 1912.
    And obviously the abstinence only sexual education is not working, since
    there is major correlation between states that provide a stricter
    abstinence only education and high number os birth rates. 

  10. JuniDellenstedt Oct 29, 2012

    Mona, your article was very interesting and you deserve heaps of credit for writing an article on this super important matter. The fact is that young people are going to have sexual relations anyways – it doesn’t matter if someone tells them that the best way to avoid STD’s and early pregnancies is to simply wait until you get married. As a young adult you are curious – honestly, who wasn’t curious on sex growing up, and this curiousity will not go away, it will get bigger and bigger. I think that curiousity regarding sex is something that is impossible to change, which is why it’s absolutely stupid to teach young people abstinence only sexual education. Young adults want to have sex – so let them! But teach them how to do it, and how to be safe while doing it. It’s year 2012 – not 1912. And obviously the abstinence only sexual education is not working, since there is major correlation between states that provide a stricter abstinence only education and high number os birth rates.

    Thanks for writing this article!

  11. Berlyn Oct 29, 2012

    Its really so sad how true this is. I was taught that if I don’t wait until marriage I would get an STD that would most likely be HIV and me or my baby would have it.I was taught this Both in middle school and in my high school health class.I just remember horror stories of innocent people getting it just because they didn’t wait. Like Cartier says, because of this I barely knew my own body, until I was much older. The root of unwanted pregnancies really comes from a lack of education

  12. Brenda Fasheh Oct 28, 2012

    I agree Sex Education has to be taken more seriously. In the world today people are not waiting for marriage to have sex. Even though I do agree with Marriage before sex most people don’t. One of my make co-workers recently told me how do you know that is the only guy you are going to want in bed for the rest of your life. So the many young people i know want to test which one is right, but by doing that they can risk pregnancy or STD’s. So I believe educators should teach how to be safer with sex. They should not teach them to wait because hardly any one waits now a days.  

  13. Yajia Liu Oct 27, 2012

    When i read this i though i was in my hometown, the problems of this not only happened in US. I think may countries many have these problem. And 
    sexual education’s problems not only about woman why they said 
    American Civil Liberties Union’s comparison of sexual active women outside of marriage to a dirty shoe. This is not the feudal society, no paternity socialist. 
    I totally agree with Dr. Marie Cartier’s view sexual education is necessary to people whatever a teenager or  adult.

  14. Sharmin Alam Oct 27, 2012

    American Civil Liberties Union’s comparison of sexual active women outside of marriage to a dirty shoe really surprised me.
    This comment puts down women and sees men as victims, which is terrible.

    I absolutely agree with Dr. Cartier, we need to establish a sexual education that gives information about ones’ body. To add with what Dr. Cartier said, I think having sex before marriage or to wait until marriage is a very personal decision that should only be decided by the individual themselves not anybody else.

    I also think all the issues with underage or teen sex will decrease if we can able to establish a sex ed. that will educate us about our bodies

  15. Kourtney Chapman Oct 26, 2012

    It would be really great for them to teach on how a woman’s body works in every way. Sex education could use a really big notch forward. I think my high school education class was not very educating and more of a joke to everyone there. If sex education became a serious concern in the world then it would finally become a serious concern in the classroom. The fact that America is the leading industrialized nation with so many STD’s and teen pregnancy is really disturbing. The reality of sex is happening the lives of American youth but its not being properly addressed. Abstinence is a great avenue of life but it is not practical for many young people. 

  16. Kourtney Chapman Oct 26, 2012

    It would be really great for them to teach on how a woman’s body works in every way. Sex education could use a really big notch forward. I think my high school education class was not very educating and more of a joke to everyone there. If sex education became a serious concern in the world then it would finally become a serious concern in the classroom. The fact that America is the leading industrialized nation with so many STD’s and teen pregnancy is really disturbing. The reality of sex is happening the lives of American youth but its not being properly addressed. Abstinence is a great avenue of life but it is not practical for many young people. 

  17. mary rose pedraja Oct 25, 2012

    This article was super interesting and I agree with getting better sex education. Growing up, I never really had a sex education class where I left feeling I learned anything at all. I was never really taught anything about STD’s, what it was, the symptoms, nothing. I basically did my own research. I wish I did have a sex education class that really gave me better information, especially about how my body works. I enjoyed reading what Dr. Cartier had to say about the matter. Our bodies are not easy to understand, and I’m positive not all of us know how our bodies, especially our sex organs, operate. Great article

  18. mary rose pedraja Oct 25, 2012

    This article was super interesting and I agree with getting better sex education. Growing up, I never really had a sex education class where I left feeling I learned anything at all. I was never really taught anything about STD’s, what it was, the symptoms, nothing. I basically did my own research. I wish I did have a sex education class that really gave me better information, especially about how my body works. I enjoyed reading what Dr. Cartier had to say about the matter. Our bodies are not easy to understand, and I’m positive not all of us know how our bodies, especially our sex organs, operate. Great article!

  19. Megan Lessa Oct 25, 2012

    Such an informative article. I’m still baffled by the fact that it is 2012 and yet there still exists the idea that abstinence-only education is substantial in preventing unwanted pregnancy and the transmittal of STIs. Even though we are armed with all the facts–that abstinence-only education fails us–controversy still exists. It makes one wonder what it really takes to shape policy that advocates for the safety and well-being of young women. Perhaps it is a sweeping cultural change around how we perceive sex that is necessary. 

Skip to content