“The Birds and the Bees” is a phrase often used to describe sex to younger children, a metaphor that is easily understandable. In many schools across the country, students are briefed with a one day “abstinence only” focused sex-ed lesson. Currently only 24 states mandate Sex Education to be taught in schools. Why should students get a one time, two hour lesson on something that they will need to carry with them for the rest of their lives? America needs to break the stigma around sex education and make sure it is taught, thoughtfully, sensitively and thoroughly.
There comes a time in a teen’s life when their parents sit them down and give them “The Talk,” but this is part of the problem. If parents are the only ones teaching sex, with metaphors and likely without contraceptive information, it leaves teens uniformed. Furthermore, when there is distance between what students hear at school, home and online, it leaves teens feeling more confused. Understanding one’s own body is a human right, so students should be put in an environment where that is made possible.
According to the Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance Survey, 1 in 2 teenagers, among older teens, have sex. Additionally, people ages 15 to 24 only make up 25 percent of the American population, but they accounted for 50 percent of all new STDs reported in 2013. Teaching Sex Education throughout schools does not encourage nor discourage sex, although, in some circumstances, it does delay it. Regardless, the main focus should be whether or not it leads teens and young adults to having safer sex. Not only should more biological information be introduced but ethics (like consent), as well.
Lake Oswego High School Health Teacher, Bob McGranahan said, “As a country we have a very conflicted and complicated view of sex and sexuality. For example, we preach abstinence and yet allow pornography to be easily available to anyone.” Students should be taught and given a better foundation for building relationships that can help support healthy and fulfilling intimacy in the future. Experts say this can also prevent or counter gender-stereotyping, and decrease instance of sexual harassment and assault in middle and high school. Students need to learn and understand the concept of mutuality; the process of making decisions with a partner and understanding and addressing others’ concerns and wishes. Consent should not be taught as a form of self defense but rather a necessary step. It is reported that most sexual assault and violence in schools is usually committed by people in domestic relationships, whether they are classmates, friends or dating.
In Oregon there are mandates and laws that require the teaching of multiple Sex-Ed topics, starting from elementary school. Lake Oswego and Oregon provide a Sex Education curriculum more eleaborate than others. Only 38 percent of United States high schools and 14 percent of middle schools teach all sexual health topics considered essential by the CDC. These topics include tips about ways partners can communicate to prevent pregnancies, infections, information about methods sexually transmitted infections are spread and how to create and sustain healthy and respectful relationships—the sex basics. Although this is a thorough list of necessary topics, there should also be even more information to allow students to apply the curriculum into their own lives. Moreover, students that are taught a comprehensive Sex Ed that includes LGBTQ+ issues report a school environment with less bullying and harrasment. Not only is it beneficial to students themselves but also the environment for their peers and each other.
Students should be allowed and encouraged to engage in discussions that will benefit and affect them in the future. The stigma around sexual education needs to be broken to create a safer, more inclusive environment.
Additionally, Lake Oswego High School Health Teacher, Bob McGranahan said, “I teach [Sex Education] as authentically as I know how, I hope they are learning it as authentically as they can learn.” Oregon is one of the few states in the country that mandates many different categories of Sex Education to be taught, in contrast to others that have no requirements at all. America’s view of sex is often hypocritical, so breaking the stigma around it can help students and all citizens to learn about their bodies and develop their own personal morals considering sex.