For better or for worse, everyone remembers what it was like to take sexual education in high school. We all remember watching The Miracle Of Life and vowing to never have children, because that birth looked awful.
Unfortunately, there are too many misconceptions about what a sexual education class actually does. These misunderstandings have led to parents and conservative school boards to restrict what teachers are allowed to tell students in class, leaving students unprepared to be responsible about their sexual activity.
Here are 5 myths about sexual education that need to be cleared up, for the good of students everywhere:
Myth 1: Sex ed programs encourage teens to have sex.
The purpose of a good sexual education program is to teach students about the biology of reproductive organs, how pregnancy happens, how diseases are spread, and how to prevent these undesired outcomes from happening. Humans are sexual creatures and a good sex ed program should give students all the tools they need to make healthy and responsible choices.
These programs don't promote high schoolers to have sex; they just let them know about all of their options if and when they decide to become sexually active. Knowledge is power.
Myth 2: Condoms and birth control don't work.
One claim that sex ed opponents frequently use is that it's best not to teach students about condoms and birth control methods, as they are unreliable and will result in pregnancy and the spread of STDs. In fact, this is couldn't be further from the truth.
When used correctly, birth control pills are 99.9% effective, and condoms are 98% effective. The key factor in this, however, is that they are be correctly. This means that the girls need to know the importance of taking their birth control at the same time every day, while the guys need to know how to put on a condom correctly and what size actually fits them (and not just fitting their ego). Condoms that don't fit or aren't put on correctly are at an increased risk for breaking or falling off.
Myth 3: Abstinence-only programs are effective at preventing teen pregnancy and STDs.
While the old trope that the only form of birth control that is 100% effective is abstinence is technically correct, the reality is that most teenagers aren't going to wait until they are married before having sex. By not teaching them how to make responsible decisions, like the importance of consent, the importance of condoms, and the need to get tested for STDs, teenagers are still going to have sex anyway, but will be putting their health at risk in doing so.
In fact, the states that have the most abstinence-only sex education have the highest rates of teen pregnancy and STD transmission, proving that it doesn't work and probably doesn't have a place in a program designed to inform students.
Myth 4: Teaching about contraceptives does not respect students who wish to remain abstinent.
There are many students who will wish to remain virgins until they are married, which is perfectly fine. Sexual education classes are meant to be informative about how reproduction works and how to make the best choices about having sex. Besides, even if some students choose to wait until marriage to have sex, they might not choose to have children right away, so knowing how to prevent pregnancy will still be worthwhile to learn.
While there is a push to decrease the amount of judgement that sexually active students receive, cutting down on that isn't disrespectful to those who are abstinent.
Each student, regardless of their decision to become sexually active or not, should have a comprehensive education about how to maintain their health. Just because some students won't have to apply all of the information they learn in sex ed is no reason to withhold it from those who would benefit from it.
Myth 5: Teachers are not qualified to teach sexual education. It should be left to the parents.
There are some parents who feel that it is their place to teach their children about sex, not the teacher.
While that's a perfectly acceptable stance to take, the reality is that it can be pretty embarrassing for both parties when parents and children talk about sex. This awkward factor may lead to incomplete conversations, if they even happen at all.
Not all students have a solid home life where there's someone who can talk to them about the realities of sex, making their education at school all the more invaluable. Additionally, even students who have a strong family may benefit from having a different adult to ask questions to that they might not feel comfortable asking at home. A teacher trained in biology is also a great resource for answering some of the more technical aspects of reproduction.
Parents absolutely should talk to their children about their feelings about sex, the same way they should talk to their children about other big decisions in their lives. The student learning the biology of sex does not take away from the ever-important role of the parent.
Sexual education is a necessity for teenagers, and the unfortunate reality is that too many school systems across the United States are failing their students. It's time to let go of these misconceptions and focus on a fact-based that is beneficial for everyone.
What was your sexual education experience like? Let us know in the comments!
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