As the call for comprehensive sexual education grows louder, the push-back against it only intensifies. Claims that comprehensive sex ed encourage and trivialize sex are rampant, with many arguing that informing students about birth control options, abortions, and sexual health provides students with a means of engaging in premarital sex. However, there is absolutely no evidence to support that teens who are taught comprehensive sex ed are more likely to engage in premarital sex.
This knowledge does not stop opponents from claiming comprehensive sex ed is fundamentally flawed. Lori Cole, executive director of the Eagle Forum, a conservative lobby group, argues that comprehensive sex ed sends mixed signals to students by giving kids more information about risky behaviors rather than simply teaching them to avoid those behaviors. She argues that teaching students about contraception yet advising them to wait to have sex gives students conflicting messages about when to have sex. The fact of the matter though, is that teens are already having premarital sex, whether they are being taught comprehensive sex ed or not. In fact, Mississippi, which predominantly teaches students that abstinence is the only responsible choice, has one of the highest teen birth rates in the country. We need to stop fooling ourselves with this idea that all young people are saintly virgins and start actually preparing them for the awkward, yet important, realities of sex. Teaching teens about contraceptives is not going to motivate them to have sex, because clearly they are already self-motivated enough; comprehensive sexual education simply gives them the tools they need to be safe.
Contrary to the beliefs of its opponents, comprehensive sex ed does not entail handing out condoms and saying “have fun kids.” It still promotes abstinence as the most effective way of preventing STIs and unwanted pregnancies. In fact, comprehensive sex ed is shown to reduce the frequency of sex by almost 30%. Furthermore, when people fight against comprehensive sex ed, they aren’t just fighting against contraception knowledge, they are also fighting against knowledge of healthy relationships, the avoidance of unwanted sexual advancements, and medically accurate information.
So, no, Lori, comprehensive sex ed does not send mixed signals or promote premarital sex, it just acknowledges the fact that teens are going to have sex so they might as well be prepared.
“Abstinence-only programs grew increasingly popular in the early 2000s, when funding grew from $9 million in 1997 to $176 million by 2007.”
In recent years, comprehensive sexual health programs have seen an increase in federal funding with about $176 million dollars spent in 2016; whereas, abstinence-only programs receive about half of that amount at $85 million dollars, also spent in 2016. Sexual educators can thank Former President Barack Obama for this allocation of funding, but the Obama Administration is something of the past with new laws and regulations coming about. The future of sexual education programs is now in the hands of the new and unpredictable administration of the United States of America.
President Donald Trump and the Republican Party agree that the goal of sexual education programs is to reduce teen pregnancy, which has already been seeing a decline in the past few years alone. Unfortunately, they do not believe comprehensive sexual education is the reason for this lowering statistic. Instead, they believe the decline in teen pregnancy is due to restricting access to abortions and also the upbringing of more abstinence-only programs. These programs teach children that a faithful, married relationship is the only expected standard of sexual behavior and are extremely judgmental to any other type of sexual behavior that is outside the realm of marriage. Not only is this seen as naive in today’s society, but they are also against the use of contraceptives, even though they claim they would like to see a continuous decrease in teenage pregnancy, which contraceptives indeed help with. The underlying religious aspect of these programs prevents children from learning the full scope of what it means to be sexually active and performing healthy sexual behaviors.
Abstinence-only programs are not the answer to the problem of teen pregnancy. These programs try to induce a certain aspect of fear towards teenagers who may or may not be sexually active, which may work on some children, but the lack of “real-world” education puts these children at a disadvantage and at risk. Teens are exposed to many sexual behaviors through social media, their peers, and through subliminal messages each and every day. Without the proper education to prevent diseases from spreading and knowing of various alternative methods to prevent pregnancy, these kids are more likely to harm themselves and others. Most teens graduate high school and enter college without a formal sexual education from public school systems, other than experience. Instead of taking away funding from comprehensive sexual education programs, President Donald Trump should consider the implications behind teaching children that abstinence is the only way to be safe, which could have more backlash than anticipated.