The Arsenal Of Democracy

Abstinence Only or Everything But?

Everybody who has ever taken part in sex education in school remembers it vividly.

The awkwardness of the teacher’s attempts at nonchalant-ness, combined with horrifyingly graphic images of body parts affected by sexually transmitted diseases. In truth, sexual education did as much for one’s sex drive as Jaws does for fishing off the New England coast.

Still, a large part of the population, especially in the States, seems to believe the opposite.

The vocalism of many in the States on a need for an abstinence-only sex education, where sex ed. is required, is amplified and heard daily on right wing radio and television.

However, a new study in the wake of New York City mandating sex education shows the true correlation between a lack of quality sexual education, teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases shows some un-surprising results.

Salon pointed out 8 key states, all of whom teach only ‘traditional’ values (sex only within marriage, abstinence, etc.), and don’t require the classes to be scientifically accurate (this is, of course, where sex education is taught at all as the subject is not mandatory) and all of whom have high rates of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. These states are:

  • Alabama – has “among the highest rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, of any state in the union,” according to youth advocate Amplify. 15th highest teen pregnancy rate
  • Arkansas – 5th in for Chlamydia, 7th for gonorrhea, and 10th for syphilis. 8th teen pregnancy rate
  • Florida – 1st in HIV infections, 12th in teen pregnancies
  • Indiana – teens “are among the least likely to report having used condoms the last time they had sex,” according to Amplify
  • Louisiana – 1st in syphilis, top ten for both Chlamydia and gonorrhea, 11th in teen HIC
  • Missouri – higher than average rates of STIs, lower than average condom use amongst teens
  • Texas – 5th highest teen pregnancies, 3rd in young people with Aids, 4th in syphilis amongst teens
  • Virginia – 8th highest rate of syphilis, a cost of $3.1 bill in taxpayers money due to unplanned pregnancies between 1991 and 2004

In Great Britain, although the argument may not be taking place as loudly, there has been a constant debate about how sexual education should be taught to our children, summed up by two opposing bills slowly processing through government at this moment.

Nadine Dorries MP is suggesting we should be teaching our teenage girls about the importance of abstinence as an anecdote to the sexualisation of modern society. While Chris Bryant MP has put forward a bill that aims at extending sex education and mandating it for all schools.

Although the bills have only passed their first read, and may not be as extreme as any US counter parts in their opinion to abstinence, we can be sure the arguments for and against will follow the same lines. Advertising sex to children who are too young, or properly equipping them against the risk of pregnancy and STIs, substituting education for ignorance.

All of which ignore the middle ground, a ground of compromise and, possibly, solution.

Would it not be great to be able to develop a sex education system that, not only properly equips an entire generation with the tools to approach sex with an understanding the risks and responsibility painfully missed at the moment, but also with a level of maturity and confidence for our youth to transcend the peer-pressure and social persuasion surrounding sex?

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