In a political climate where state legislatures are virtually banning abortions, with the goal of seeing them to the Supreme Court, comprehensive sex education is more important than ever. Studies have shown that comprehensive sex education is associated with lower rates of teen pregnancies, but most states’ curricula for sex education are abstinence-centered. Considering the prevalence of abstinence-based sex education, it’s important for each person to continue to educate themselves about healthy sex and sexuality.
For decades, kids and teens have been breaking rules that were set up by adults for their own good. Kids have and still continue to, drive with friends before they’re allowed to, smoke cigarettes or marijuana, drink and generally break any rules they feel like breaking.
As teens rebel against the expectations of the society they live in and come to terms with their own blossoming individuality, rule-breaking becomes a part of adolescent development. And because rule-breaking is such a major part of development, how can policymakers expect a demographic as unpredictable as teenagers to obey the abstinence-heavy education they’re given?
The truth is, teenagers won’t stop having sex because of one semester of a less-than-educational health class, with a two-week course on how to stay abstinent. Even if they did, those teenagers turn into adults with little to no knowledge about sex, sexuality, consent or reproductive health and rights.
Sex, in comparison to other commonly broken rules, is a major part of life at its most base level. A species needs water, food, safety and sex to survive and live on, so it’s important to educate young adults on safe, consensual sex, despite the system doing them a disservice.
One study found that the arguments, like the ones aforementioned, are commonly accepted and that a shift from abstinence-based sex education has garnered a fair amount of support. The funding needed to make it possible on a wide, international scale, however, is just not there.
According to Planned Parenthood, comprehensive sex education covers consent, sexuality, sexual identity, STI prevention, dating violence and more, in addition to the traditional touchstone topic of abstinence.
A comprehensive understanding of sex, sexuality, sexual identity and consent works to empower young adults to make their own educated sex decisions for themselves and their futures. Because of the lackluster approach taken up by a majority of American public schools, everyone should know how to get information for themselves.
In 2019, a veritable wealth of information is widely available on the internet, but it can be hard to navigate. However, there are a few places to start looking into continuing sex education outside of the classroom.
First, the most basic step to a deeper understanding of sex is a scientific knowledge of the anatomy of the human body. Once you gain an understanding of the body, you immediately debunk countless sex myths.
For example, “safe days,” days on which it’s impossible for individuals to get pregnant because they’re on a certain part of their menstrual cycle, are a myth. While pregnancy is improbable during certain parts of the menstrual cycle in comparison to the likelihood of pregnancy during ovulation, it is far from impossible. Another popular myth is the efficacy of “pulling out,” since pre-ejaculate can contain sperm and fertilize an egg.
Simple googling can give a very basic sense of the anatomy and physiology of the body, but in this case, structure might be the way to go. The popular educational website Khan Academy is an excellent place to start learning about the body and the reproductive system. Khan Academy has an entire class set up for human anatomy and physiology, and specific units to look at in the pursuit of sexual knowledge include the lymphatic system, reproductive system and pregnancy and pregnancy complications.
Next, education on sexual health and what it means to get a comprehensive sex education is important. The CDC has a page on sexual health with tabs for STIs, AIV/AIDS prevention, LGBT health and research for instances of publication of sexual health information.
Planned Parenthood is another organization with several online tools, specifically to use in teaching. In addition to the teaching videos available on the website, Planned Parenthood also has a YouTube channel dedicated to educating the public about different aspects of sex, such as sexual identity, how to talk to parents about sex, sexual abuse and more.
AMAZE makes cartoon videos specifically for the education of adolescents between the ages of 10 – 14. Despite mostly being for preteens, the simplicity and friendly tone of the videos make them a good option for anyone starting a sex education journey. They cover topics such as puberty, personal safety, partner violence and anxiety.
Equally as important as learning more about safe sex is advocating for the comprehensive sex education of others. Prevention is the best route, so it’s important to use the empowerment gained through thorough research of sex topics to help empower and educate future generations by advocating for better sex education in schools.
Unsurprisingly, Planned Parenthood has a page about advocacy within a community. On the page is information and links to state laws, representatives and senators for people to contact and even more suggestions for how to bring better sex knowledge to a community.
The American Sexual Health Association, created in New York City in 1914, focused on fighting STIs and prostitution and remains a force for sexual education advocacy. Not only can health and relationship information be found on the website, but also information on how to get involved in advocating for change in sex ed.
Finally, Advocates for Youth is an organization, fighting for a change in sex education, whose primary goal is supplying everyone with accurate sexual health information. Advocates for Youth also supplies free lesson plans for teaching sex education, and offers training for prospective teachers.
In a time when information is more easily accessible than ever before, it’s increasingly difficult to navigate the parts that matter, but now anyone can choose to continue learning about safe sex and every other sex topic under the sun, in an effort to push the world to a brighter, safer and less stigma-ridden world.