Abstaining from sex-ed does not mean teens will abstain from sex. Staff Writer Lauren Waymire shares her thoughts on the lack of sex education in U.S. high schools.
The United States has had some strange fixation with MTV’s Teen Mom since it first aired in 2009. Viewership only increased as the show progressed, and eventually resulted in both Teen Mom 2 and Teen Mom 3. What I found baffling about this phenomenon, however, was the effect the show had on those watching it.
A study released in 2014, conducted by two economists from the Brookings Institution and Wellesley College, found that the show may have been responsible for a third of the decline in teen pregnancies in the United States during the years the show aired. The researchers found that, after each episode of the show aired, there was a spike in Google searches on topics like birth control and other forms of contraception. MTV had effectively hit people with the hard truth on a subject considered to be taboo.
The fact that teenagers had to rely on a reality TV show and a search engine to provide them with honest answers is more than disheartening; it is embarrassing. Simply put, sex education in this country is largely ineffective.
According to the Sexuality Information and Education Council, when teens are taught abstinence only and are not provided with a comprehensive education on the matter, they are more likely to become pregnant or contract a sexually transmitted disease. You may as well be giving a teenager a car and telling them not to crash it when they barely know how to work the pedals.
It seems like sex in our society is often geared toward one extreme or the other: it is either a sin of depravity or an over-glorified fad. There needs to be balance. Sex-ed should be more than an awkward anatomy lesson and scary STD pictures.
Physiology is a given. However, what about the emotional and psychological implications? What about the public health and financial burdens caused by unintended teen pregnancies? There is a price tag on everything, honey. There is also the matter of understanding exactly what consent means and encouraging open and honest dialogue with sexual partners, whether you are married to them or not. One cannot tout the Mean Girls sex–ed theory—”Don’t have sex, because you will get pregnant. And die. Don’t have sex in the missionary position, don’t have sex standing up, just don’t do it, OK? Promise? OK, now everybody take some rubbers.”
Parents not wanting their child to have sex-ed in school and then refusing to educate their kids themselves is absurd. In doing so, they are not even allowing their child the opportunity to make a wise, informed decision. Also, teenagers need to understand that both parties (except in cases of rape) are responsible.
A public school in the state of Mississippi recently compared non-virgin girls to dirty chocolate, saying that girls were no longer clean or valuable after having sex. And they wonder why they have one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the country.
It is time to be rational about sex education, America. Strange concept, I know, but it may just work.