The US has always been reserved in terms of sex education, but it is time for us to move away from that past as a nation. We like to congratulate ourselves as a forward, developed nation, but we shouldn’t pat ourselves on the back preemptively. While we see ourselves as highly progressed, we are in fact reliant on outdated sex education and teaching methods taught by gym teachers who double as a health instructor.
For example, 37 out of 50 states require information about abstinence is provided in sex education, and of that 25 are required to stress abstinence methods. What is abstinence? It is defined as the practice of restraining oneself from indulging in something, in this case sexual activities. Unfortunately for Ohio, we are a state that puts heavy emphasis on an abstinence only approach. This means Ohio is allowed to ignore other options of sex education, such as contraceptives, condoms, and family planning. Ohio’s sex education varies by region, and covered curriculum is decided by the local boards of education.
Although Ohio schools are required to teach sex education and HIV education in some capacity, these boards have almost complete control over what is covered within that broad spectrum. This means there is easily room for biased or skipped information. In fact, Ohio is not even required to provide age appropriate, culturally appropriate, nor medically accurate information. In doing so, Ohio harms their youth by censoring knowledge on safe and healthy sex, and misleading with potentially incorrect information. Often times, this results in teen pregnancy. Abstinence-only methods of teaching have consistently proven to fail, but correct information on safety measures is successful. Pretending sex doesn’t exist, doesn’t mean teens won’t find out how it works. Wouldn’t America rather these kids had the information they needed to have the safest and healthiest sex possible?
Instead, many schools incorporate sex-shaming tactics, and emphasize sex only in marriage. This is not a realistic expectation in the modern day, and to teach under the assumption that it is, is dangerous. Ohio schools also don’t have to cover sexual orientation, contraception, self-defense from sexual assault, how to make healthy decisions, nor family communication skills. Sometimes students are hindered well into their adult lives from never having a full comprehensive sex, or general health education. Too many times people don’t know how periods work, where a girl pees from, how to prevent the transmission of STIs, etc. This is due to a fault in basic education; a fault that is sometimes never remedied in the future, and therefore continues to hinder sexually active people everywhere.
This article appeared in the February issue of The Vindicator. The online version of the issue is here!