It’s no surprise that students have questions about sex. What is a surprise, however, is how few of their questions are being answered in school. Young people have a right to receive accurate and comprehensive information about their bodies, relationships, and sex, yet only 22 states mandate that sex education be taught.
While comprehensive sexual education includes teaching students medically accurate information about contraceptives, pregnancy, and STIs, it also addresses issues affecting the overall well-being of young people. How to communicate needs, develop healthy relationships, and make responsible decisions regarding sexuality are all topics covered in comprehensive sex education and are topics that students, regardless of which state they live in, should know.
There is no denying that sexuality can be a very influential aspect of our lives. When we withhold information about sexuality from students, we are directly impacting their right to make informed decisions about their own bodies. Guaranteeing young people understand how influential sexuality can be on their lives and how to navigate such sexuality is a moral thing to do.
While there have definitely been advancements in the call for comprehensive sex ed, many schools are still teaching ideologically driven information that threatens student’s fundamental right to receive accurate information regarding sexual health. In fact, over 80% of abstinence only curriculum was found to contain false or distorted information about reproductive health. Specifically, many courses were found teaching false information about the risk of abortion and effectiveness of contraception, while promoting gender stereotypes and religious belief as scientific fact. Additionally, these programs rarely include information regarding LGBTQ sexual health, therefore excluding specific students from receiving the information they need. Comprehensive sex ed does not focus on abstinence as a moral compass and does not use a student’s sexual activity as an indicator of what type of person they are, it promotes sexual health in a way that doesn’t shame the students, simply educates them.
With only certain states requiring sex education and even fewer requiring that information be medically accurate, the quality of education students are receiving about their own well-being varies depending on where they live. Knowledge regarding the overall well-being of young people should not be limited to the students who happen to live in areas that teach comprehensive sex education. Having no sex ed programs or programs that leave students unprepared is unethical. All people, young people especially, should have the right to accurate, honest, and comprehensive sexual education so that they can make informed decisions about their health.
Sexual health and feeling in control of one’s own sexual decisions is a right I believe all students are entitled to. Withholding information about contraception and using scare tactics to persuade students to abstain from sex is a shameful infringement on this right.