Let's Talk About Sex (Education)
Yupu Cai, Division 2, 12th grade #ws18e-s3d2

Sex ed: the most awkward class that any teen will ever have to go through. Fifty minutes of clinical demonstrations, accompanied by not-so-subtle snickers from the class clown, are enough to scar a whole classroom of developing kids. However, that experience is restricted to schools that actually have a sex education program. Many schools around the country (including mine) completely lack a sex education program. A comprehensive sex education program would greatly improve my school by promoting sexual health, decreasing the risk of sexually-transmitted diseases, and reducing risk factors for teens.

The first benefit of a comprehensive sex education program is its impact on sexual health. Comprehensive sex education programs are generally effective, and experts in the field have acknowledged their benefits. For instance, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that successful sex education programs can increase condom use – a simple, yet effective, way of ensuring protection during sex. Additionally, some sex education classes have incorporated discussions about the importance of consent in sexual encounters. These conversations, when initiated early on, can have a powerful impact on how adolescents approach their relationships and sex lives in the future. By situating these programs among other classes, sex education can become normalized and natural (rather than a slightly awkward topic, like it is now). A careful look at these effects reveal the potential for a well-informed, safer population.

In addition to promoting sexual health, sex education can decrease the risks associated with sex. These risks may include sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), multiple instances of unprotected sex, or pregnancy. So far, research has proven that comprehensive sex education programs seem to be the best at mitigating these risks. In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has published a study about how effective HIV/STD prevention education programs can help to reduce instances of unprotected sex and increase contraceptive use. Another study has found similar results; 40 percent of comprehensive sex education programs ""delayed sexual initiation [or] reduced the number of sexual partners"". By lowering instances of unprotected sex and the amount of sexual partners, teens have a better chance of avoiding pregnancy and STDs. This becomes especially urgent when considering that “almost 1 in 4 [sexually active adolescents] has or had” a sexually transmitted infection, according to Polish public health researcher Malgorzata Drwal. Based on Drwal’s conclusion, my school should understand the dangers that teens face and actively strive to protect them through an effective sex education program.

While some may argue that teaching kids more about sex only encourages them to engage in such activities, the facts paint a different picture. Teens that are more informed about sex are just as careful as (and oftentimes more cautious than) those who have only received abstinence-only sex education. According to a graph from the U.S. National Library of Medicine, states with lower levels of abstinence education actually have less teen pregnancies overall. This means that comprehensive sex education programs are more effective at reducing risk factors that could negatively impact teens. Sex education researcher Douglas Kirby supports this conclusion; he finds that curriculum-based sex and STD/HIV education programs help by “delaying the onset of sex, reducing the frequency of sex, [and] reducing the number of sexual partners”. These benefits can be long-lasting, too. Kirby found that the positive effects of a well-crafted curriculum can last for up to thirty-one months, so a long-term class could provide a virtual bonanza of benefits for teens. My school should be actively seeking to incorporate these benefits into their curricula in order to ensure the health of their students.

Ultimately, implementing a sex education program can have a multitude of benefits for students. My school should be mindful of its choice of curriculum and its effect on sexual behaviors. Careful consideration of these benefits can ensure the selection of a program that best fits the school while promoting safe sexual behaviors among teens. Sex is an inescapable part of life, and teens should not have to view it as a risky or clandestine activity. Proper sex education at my school has the potential to create a generation of well-informed individuals.
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