Sex education is one of the most dreaded classes for high schoolers.
It can be awkward and embarrassing, and let’s not forget all those who were emotionally scarred after the “miracle of life” video.
The truth is sex education is extremely important. It shouldn’t be embarrassing or awkward.
States are often debating the best way to teach sex education, or if it should be taught at all.
Sex education needs to be mandatory for all states, and it should be a comprehensive program that incorporates both abstinence and birth control methods such as condoms and the pill.
In addition to the comprehensive approach to preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), each sex ed program should also include a section on date rape, sexual violence and harassment.
Currently, 22 states require sex education and 33 states require HIV/AIDS instruction, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).
That number should be 50. All 50 states should require sex ed and HIV/AIDS instruction.
However, the debate that usually follows is what should be included in the sex ed course.
The answer is simple: it needs to show both sides. On one hand, teenagers are going to have sex. Period.
Therefore, they need to know how to properly use available birth control methods.
On the other hand, they also need to know that the only way to completely prevent pregnancy and STDs is through abstinence, and that it is OK to abstain.
If slut-shaming is wrong, virgin-shaming should be too.
Research shows that abstinence-only programs are ineffective.
According to a 2007 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, students in abstinence-only programs had sex at the same age as those participating in other sex ed programs.
You can’t just expect teenagers not to have sex.
You have to prepare them. Leaving them unprepared creates an atmosphere that can leave them scared to even ask about protection, and that eventually leads to higher rates of STDs and teen pregnancies.
The NCSL reported that even though young people (ages 15-24) only account for one quarter of the sexually active population, they account for half of all new STDs (9.8 billion new cases annually).
Just as striking is the fact that teen pregnancies cost taxpayers “at least” $10.9 billion annually. That’s billion with a capital “B.”
These are the reasons we need to teach preventative STD and birth control methods to students.
On top of that, teaching both males and females a culture of respect for each others and their own bodies is just as important as preventing pregnancy and disease.
All teenagers should be required to take a course in sexual violence, which would cover topics like date rape and what “consent” means, as well as sexual harassment.
Physically or sexually abused teenage girls are six times as likely to become pregnant and twice as likely to get an STD, according to Love is Respect’s website.
Curbing dating violence is directly related to preventing pregnancy and STDs, which is what sex education is all about.
In general, schools need to put more focus on dating violence and date rape.
In a study surveying 305 members of the American School Counselor Association, 61 percent reported assisting a victim of dating violence in the past two years, but only 10 percent of the counselors reported having any dating violence training in the past two years.
In order to see the teen pregnancy and STD rates decline in this country, we must educate our students comprehensively on how to prevent certain consequences of sexual activity.
We also must teach them a culture of respect for each other’s bodies.