College students will drink, college students will take naps and college students will have sex. While the Castleton Wellness Center might offer a variety of condoms and lubricants, students won’t go there if they have been taught that sex is a taboo or weren’t taught safe-sex practices to begin with.
While it should be obvious in the year 2016 that sexual education is important, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, only 22 states and the District of Columbia require public schools to teach sexual education and only 19 of those require the curriculum to be medically, factually and technically correct.
Vermont, one of the most liberal states, does not require any kind of sexual education to be taught and many students go without factual information.
Even states that do require sex ed often leave out important topics like gender identity, sexual identity and, the most obvious in my opinion, that sex of all kinds and masturbation can be pleasurable.
At my high school in Massachusetts, a state the requires factual sexual education, we learned the parts of male and female genitalia, a lot about sexually transmitted diseases, how men masturbate, how babies are conceived and how to use protection – but nothing about gender identities, nothing about sex between same-sex individuals, nothing about female masturbation, nothing about consent. The result of these omissions is shame and unsafe experimentation.
If this is happening in liberal New England I can only imagine what students are, or more likely aren’t, taught in other parts of the country.
Another problem with sexual education is that it needs to be taught at a younger age. More and more middle schoolers are having sex and getting pregnant or getting STDs because they haven’t yet had a sexual education class. In the Netherlands, sex education is started in kindergarten with age-appropriate information, adding more during each year of schooling. This process teaches good practices from the very beginning and helps children grow up comfortable with themselves and knowing what makes a safe and healthy relationship.
According to dosomething.org, three in 10 American girls will get pregnant before the age of 20 and each year there are roughly 9.8 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases among 15-24 year-olds. In the Netherlands, however, less than five of every 1,000 Dutch girls will get pregnant before their 20th birthday. That’s 0.5 percent compared to our 30 percent.
Maybe that’s an indication that they’re doing something right over there.
Prominent opponents of comprehensive sexual education are evangelical Christians who say it threatens their religious values. While they may not want sex to seem like a fun activity, they should be required to teach factual information in order for their children to feel comfortable with the bodies they have been given and prevent pregnancy if their child does in fact have sex.
Sex education is more important than whether a teen learns how to put a condom on a banana or not. It’s about gender identities, sexual identities, boundaries, choices, respecting yourself, discovering your own interests and building healthy relationships, and it is something that needs to be taught at every school in America without question.