Alright, so I’ve promised to post a series on comprehensive sexual education… well what the hell does that mean?
What is comprehensive sexual education?
Comprehensive sex education needs to include age-appropriate, medically accurate information on all of the topics related to sexuality including human development, relationships, decision making, abstinence, contraception, and disease prevention. This includes information about the human body, reproductive organs, lubrication, and different kinds of sex (oral, anal, vaginal, etc.).
Why is comprehensive sexual education necessary?
The current sex education curriculum in the public school system is lacking a lot of necessary information. It is taught from a *cisnormative and *heteronormative perspective, which means it excludes queer identities from access to complete and accurate information regarding safe sex and reproductive health.
In addition, the lack of specific information regarding the actual act of sex in most sexual education programs taught to kids in K-12 contributes to a negative stigma attached to having sex. Some sex education classes may talk briefly about what a condom is, and that is can help prevent pregnancy, but that’s the furthest into that conversation a lot of classes will go.
A lot of the time this results in feelings of guilt and shame for what is a TOTALLY NORMAL human behavior. Kids are taught that having sex is, essentially, a terrible thing and that they shouldn’t be doing it. A major component of safe sex, which is sexual consent, is also missing from the conversation.
As a result of incomplete and dishonest sexual education, the LGBTQ+ community has higher rates of STD and STIs. In states with less comprehensive sexual education, teen pregnancy, STD/STI, and sexual assault rates skyrocket.
BUT, this isn’t just a “gay issue” (as my homophobic uncle might say). Young people in opposite sex relationships who receive incomplete education regarding sex and reproductive health are also put at higher risk of STD/STIs and pregnancy. How can they be expected to magically know the preventative measures used to reduce the rates of these things if they aren’t taught?
Only 38 states in the United States have laws regarding the sexual education curriculum. Of those 38 states, 30 contain abstinence only education provisions. 8 of the states have “No Promo Homo” laws, which are laws that require a sex educator discussing queer identities or relationships, to only speak of them in a negative light.
In states where abstinence only laws and policies are in place, there are significantly higher rates of teen pregnancy and teen birth, as well as higher rates of STD/STIs. Adolescents in the United States who receive comprehensive sex or HIV education have lower risk of pregnancy and HIV/STD infection than adolescents who receive strict abstinence only education, or no sex education at all. This is also true of other high-income countries.
As we all know, telling young people NOT to do something only makes them want to do it more. Therefore, abstinence only education isn’t effective. Kids and teenagers need to be taught how to have safe sex. They need to be taught honest, medically accurate information about their reproductive organs, and they deserve access to this information NOW.
*Cisnormativity – (noun) the assumption, in individuals or in institutions, that everyone is cisgender, and that cisgender identities are superior to trans* identities or people. Leads to invisibility of non-cisgender identities.
*Heteronormativity – (noun) the assumption, in individuals or in institutions, that everyone is heterosexual, and that heterosexuality is superior to all other sexualities. Leads to invisibility and stigmatizing of other sexualities. Often included in this concept is a level of gender normativity and gender roles, the assumption that individuals should identify as men and women, and be masculine men and feminine women, and finally that men and women are a complimentary pair.