American teenagers' experiences with sex education are wildly inconsistent. As of January 2022, 21 U.S. states do not require sex education. Even in states where sex education is mandatory, the information provided by teachers is not necessarily useful, correct or fair. In fact, in about two-thirds of the states that require sex education, the materials provided are not necessarily medically accurate!
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Inadequate sex education in the United States is a major reason the Country continues to have one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections in the industrialized world. Check out the infographic below for a deeper look at how sex education is changing across the country today.
Sex education is important for young people's sexual health, but content is important. The study found that states with the most abstinence-only programs in the country actually had the highest teen pregnancy rates. In contrast, comprehensive sex education was associated not only with lower rates of teenage pregnancy, but also with lower risk of sexually transmitted infections. There is overwhelming evidence that simply teaching students to avoid premarital sex leads to worse outcomes than teaching them practical sexual skills and information.
At a time when the average age of first marriage is approaching 30 and the average age of first sexual activity is 16-17, it is unrealistic to advocate abstinence before marriage.
However, comprehensive sex education has many benefits beyond improving sexual health. For example, these shows are also about increasing a sense of sexual empowerment by changing traditional views of men and women. This, in turn, can promote healthier sexual relationships.
Without school-based sex education, adolescents are likely to turn to unreliable and inaccurate sources of sexual information, including peers and pornography. Students also want useful school-based sex education. In fact, some studies have found that students view school as their single most important source of sexual health information.
Parents often expect schools to provide this information, and this is an area on which most American politicians agree: Studies have found that Republicans and Democrats largely support comprehensive sex education .
For change to happen, we need to partner with those who have the power to change it. If you want to help promote change, start by getting involved at the local level, because that's where most decisions about sex education content are actually made. Take an interest in what your child is learning (or not learning) about sex in school. Identify deficiencies in the program and follow up with the local school board.