Lack of Proper Sex Ed?
excerpt courtesy of
Ervin, Vanessa. The Comparison of Abstinence Sex Education and Comprehensive Education. WOME-1100-YDE, 23 Mar. 2017.
Is there a correct way? Everyone goes through the sexual and puberty development stage at some point or another while experiencing it all differently. With most people there is a change in our bodies and our sexual mindset. As we get older the only way to understand these things is to be educated. This is often where schools comes into place teaching us not only education but also sex education. One of the many problems and debates however, is which type of sex education to teach; Absence sex education or Comprehensive education? Abstinence Sex Education is defined as being, “teaching the social, psychological, and health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual activity. It teaches that abstinence from sexual activity outside of marriage is the expected standard from all unmarried children. It also Teaches that sexual activity outside of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical side effects to them, their parents, and society” (Abstinence-Only-Programs). Comprehensive Sex Education is defined as “teaching about abstinence as the best method for avoiding STDs and unintended pregnancy, but also teaching about condoms and contraceptives to reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy and infection. It also teaches interpersonal and communication skills and helps young people explore their own values, goals, and options” (Sex Education Programs). Although there are many valid points made by both types of sex education, this paper will discuss the undeniable and proven facts when comparing Abstinence Sex Education and Comprehensive Sex Education. When comparing Abstinence Sex Education with Comprehensive Sex Education it can easily be seen that there are distinct differences between the two when it comes to establishing the value of a person, knowledge, and stigma.
Abstinence Sex Education and Comprehensive Sex Education have very different views when it comes to establishing the value of a person. As Laura Carpenter proves in her scholarly article, Gender and the meaning and experience of virginity Loss , society places a huge emphasis on girl’s first time having sex because it is looked at as being a very precious and important “social and sexual transition” (Carpenter). The reason why this is so important is because a girl’s virginity is seen as a ‘gift’ which is only to be given/lost when married and so if a girl has sex before, it is then reflected negatively on her value (Carpenter). A girl’s value after sex decreases and she is looked at as being impure, innocent, and sinful (Carpenter). As Marla Eisenberg’s article shows, we specifically deem girls values by saying that ‘good girls do not have premarital sex” (Eisenberg). Socially there is a double standard as value is deemed the other way for boys. For boys, being sexually active is deemed an “achievement which defines their manly hood” (Eisenberg). In the case of the heterosexual relationship this is an impossible expectations as it takes both of them to have sex. Therefore, there is no way for the girl to still be valued as being a ‘pure, innocent’ virgin while the male be praised for losing his virginity and becoming more ‘manly’ (Eisenberg). This situation is very complex and problematic because as both the girl and the boy think that their value is established by their sexuality, they are trying to achieve this impossible expectation. It is important to see that society has made it that a person’s value is determined by if they have had sex or not (Levine). This means that society defines a person by one variable which neglects everything else about them as a whole (Eisenberg). Abstinence Sex Education reinforces all of these ideologies as it is teaching that you must wait till marriage for sex therefore having sex makes you impure, sinful, less female, or less manly (Levine). In comparison, Comprehensive Sex Education breaks the connection between your sexual activities defining your value as a person (Levine). Comprehensive Sex Education teaches that having sexual feelings are normal which therefore, does not make you ‘bad or impure’ (Levine). Comprehensive Sex Education while teaching that you do not have to have sex, also teaches safe ways to have sex if you choose so as it does not lower your worth (Sex Education Programs). When comparing these two ways of teaching sex education, it can be seen that Abstinence Sex Education negatively establishes the value of a person based on if they have had sex or not, whereas Comprehensive Sex Education tries to break away from this connection.
When comparing Abstinence Sex Education with Comprehensive Sex Education, both use very different ways of conveying knowledge. Abstinence Sex Education teaches to not have sex and teaches mandatory abstinence before marriage (Abstinence-Only-Programs). Abstinence Sex Education does not teach things that do not enforce these abstinence ideologies (Fields). An example of this is in Jessica field’s article, Sex Education and Social Inequality, which talks about a school called Franklin County (Fields). Franklin County taught Abstinence Sex Education and ended up taking out three chapters in its textbook because it did not promote abstinence until marriage (Fields). These textbooks used the words ‘partner’ instead of ‘spouse’ and said to wait to have sex ‘till they were ready’ not ‘until marriage’ (Fields). Topics covered in these chapters included things such as HIV/AIDS, sexual transmitted diseases, parenting and marriage, sexual behaviour, pregnancy prevention, and health nutrition (Fields). Since the school deemed that this textbook used terms that did not align with their abstinence beliefs, none of the students learnt about these topics (Fields). Another example Jessica Field’s shows is a bill called Bill 834, which places Abstinence Sex Education into schools and made it mandatory to use medical info in attempts to scare kids into abstaining from sex (Fields). Abstinence Sex Education also usually leaves out teaching topics such as abortions, masturbation, different forms of protection, and sexual orientation as these things are ‘morally wrong’ (Sex Education Programs). Abstinence education leave out these topics because they are seen as being morally wrong and so to teach the children would be to increase that behaviour (Fields). In comparison, Comprehensive Sex Education realizes that a lack of sexual education can be extremely harmful and detrimental to becoming sexually healthy adults (Carpenters). Comprehensive Sex Education teaches that abstinence is the best method for avoiding many unwanted problems but it also teaches many things to do with safe sex which allows people to choose their own values, goals, and options (Sex Education Programs). As Debra Haffner shows, Comprehensive Sex Education believes there are risks in the way Abstinence Sex Education provides knowledge (Haffner). Haffner shows that some of these consequences are, “nearly 17 million births occurring to adolescent girls every year. Over 585,000 women – 90 percent of whom are from developing regions- die from causes related to pregnancy, including unsafe abortions. Throughout the world (girls ages 10-24), 7,000 of them get HIV a day, that’s 2.6 million every year, and the statistics like this go on” (Haffner). As Haffner states, “both international and national studies have shown that Comprehensive Sex Education can help prevent these things as it does not leave out knowledge”, it provides all the knowledge for people to make their own educated decision (Haffner). Also unlike what Abstinence advocates believe, Comprehensive Sex Education has been proven to not increase sexual activity and can actually help delay a person’s first time having intercourse (Haffner). Not only this, but Comprehensive Sex Education has been proven to increase kids to be protected from STDS, HIV, unplanned pregnancies, contraceptives, and therefore, safer sex (Haffner). Comprehensive Sex Education in comparison also teaches kids to “appreciate their own bodies, have more info about reproduction, interaction and appreciation for other genders and sexual orientation, and prevention of sexual abuse” (Haffner). Luciana Hockersmith also points out that when comparing these two ways of teaching sex education, Abstinence Sex Education leaves kids lacking knowledge about their own bodies and equips their only way of coping to “just say no” which is not always effect (Hockersmith). Comprehensive Sex Education believes that this ‘just say no and abstinence theory’ has flaws as not everyone waits and therefore, things such as unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases, and unsafe sex from not know how to use protection occur because of these Abstinence only courses (Levine). When it comes to conveying knowledge, Abstinence Sex Education relies on lack of knowledge to try and protect kids from having sex, whereas Comprehensive Sex Education provides a complete knowledge on everything in order for individuals to make educated decisions, action, and precautions.
Stigma is also another thing which is very different when comparing Abstinence Sex Education and Comprehensive Sex Education. There is stigma attached to and around sex and sexual activities which sex education has a lot of responsibility for creating. Abstinence Sex Education teaches that abstinence is the only correct way, not only that but if you do not wait till marriage you are viewed as impure and sinful (Abstinence-Only-Programs). Abstinence Sex Education teaches the dangerous of sex and that “harassment, rape, and abuse is a norm of sexual behaviors” and therefore, why kids should not be sexual (Levine). Comprehensive Sex Education also thinks that teaching kids to ‘just say no’, does not teach kids what to do if they have sex or if they have question about sexuality and being sexually active (Hockersmith). In comparison, Comprehensive Sex Education wants to question the way we only perpetuate the negative side of sex and sexual activities as this has “negative psychological effects on the kids they are teaching it to” (Levine). Comprehensive Sex Education agrees that there has always been negative/risks to sex but that simply saying not to have sex is not the solution to this problem (Levine). This is because as Levine shows, there are statistics which show that even with abstinence programs 50% of 15-19 year olds who are unmarried are having sex (Levine). As proven by these statistics, Comprehensive Sex Education believes that teaching kids about absence does not actually stop them from having sex (Levine). Comprehensive Sex Education also believes that we need to teach kids that having sexual feelings is normal (Levine). Comprehensive Sex Education wants to combat the negative stigma around sex because Abstinence Sex Education has caused kids that how they naturally feel is wrong or abnormal (Levine). Unlike Abstinence Sex Education, Comprehensive Sex Education believes that we should not be causing negative stigma as it makes sex a sensitive subject to talk about (Hockersmith). Comprehensive Sex Education believes we should instead be trying to raise kids who are comfortable with these topics as it allows them to grow up and make decisions being completely informed (Hockersmith). In contrast, Abstinence Sex Education teaches that you must wait till marriage, which not only teaches you that you’re worth less if you do not wait, but it also teaches others to think less of you (Kendall). This negative stigma around sex and being sexuality active can also cause embarrassment to be on contraceptives or carry protection which in turn causes unsafe sex (Levine). Comprehensive Sex Education believes that this negative stigma fosters kids which do not talk about sex resulting in only more confusion, sensitivity, and dangers (Hockersmith). When it comes to stigma revolving around sex, it can be seen that Abstinence Sex Education is highly responsible for creating negative stigma, whereas Comprehensive Sex Eucation believes in taking away this stigma to allow everyone the ability to talk, question, and grow into healthy adults.
This paper does not have the authority to say which teaching style of sex education is correct. However, it is still important to compare Comprehensive Sex Education’s and Abstinence Sex Education’s effects on the value of a person, knowledge, and stigma. Firstly, when it comes to defining the value of a person, Abstinence Sex Education solely defines a person whether they have had sex or not, whereas Comprehensive Sex Education tries to break away this attachment. Secondly, Abstinence Sex Education only believes in providing knowledge on things which reflect their beliefs of not having sex (till marriage), whereas Comprehensive Sex Education believes in providing a complete knowledge (whether abstaining or active) so that the individual can make their own educated decisions and action. Lastly, Abstinence Sex Education believes in waiting till marriage and that a person’s value decreases if they do not, which creates stigma and sensitivity around sex. In comparison, Comprehensive Sex Education believes in creating an open environment which allows kids, teachers, parents, and the community to feel the ability to talk and ask questions in order to all be healthy growing adults. When looking at which style to teach it is important to decide if having sexual feelings/thoughts is normal for many individuals growing up, if your worth should be decided on one aspect of your life, if the statistics of what can happen when people are not and are informed about sex is important, and if there should be a realization that even with Absence Sex Education there is still a large amount pre-marital sex which states show is not caused by Comprehensive Sex Education. Whichever is chosen, it must be realized that choosing the wrong type of education can be extremely damaging to everyone.
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