Opinion: Abstinence-only sex education harms students


Despite what people in abstinence-only programs say, condoms are a highly effective prevention of STDs and pregnancies.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

J.T. BUCHHEIT Chief Copy Editor

In late elementary school and middle school, sex education usually becomes a topic of discussion. But what is taught differs depending on the school, and one of these methods is extremely ignorant.

One method of sex education is teaching students how to have safe sex. Instructors teach students the anatomy of the opposite sex and how to apply condoms. This teaching method is useful, because the majority of people are going to have sex if given the opportunity.

The other way to “teach” sex education is abstinence-only education. This is the education I received, and it has hurt me greatly.

Students are not given any information on how the opposite sex operates or their biology. The focus is almost solely on trying to frighten you out of sex by listing sexually transmitted diseases and their various side effects.

It emphasizes that condoms are ineffective at preventing pregnancies or STDs, despite this risk being minimized if people actually know how to put condoms on. We had textbooks that were solely about STDs and filling in the blanks about which side effects go with which infection.

Proponents of abstinence-only education say that it discourages people from having sex, which is absolutely false. A study published in April 2007 said youths in abstinence-only education were no less likely to engage in sexual activity than their peers who were not in that program.

At the end of the our sex ed lesson, there was an “abstinence pledge” to wait until marriage that we were told to sign. These abstinence pledges harm more than help students. Because they are not given adequate information about safe sex, a study showed that they are one-third less likely to use contraception during sex and are also less likely to use condoms. If people are going to have sex anyway, you might as well teach students how to be safe while doing it.

Another problem is the heteronormative approach toward sex education, leaving homosexual students even less informed than their heterosexual peers on how to stay safe while having sex.

I received the bulk of my sex education in 2007-2008, during the Bush/Obama transition. Barack Obama directed more resources toward more comprehensive sexual education, and I would not be surprised if schools progressed in their teachings of it during his administration.

However, Donald Trump wants to go back to a plan that has been proven not to work. Trump wants to bring abstinence-only education back to the forefront and has allocated $75 million toward it. This is a dangerous regression and will deprive students of what could be among the most useful education of their lives.