How did you learn about sex? Was it good, bad or indifferent? Was it through friends, films and TV, older brothers or sisters, personal experience, or did you get sex education at school? Perhaps it was from your mom or dad. As college students, most of us, hopefully, have figured out sex is not like coach Carr’s sex advice in “Mean Girls”: ‘‘Do not have sex, because you will get pregnant and die.’’ We may understand this joke, but what about students who were never given the sex talk?
According to dosomething.org, more than 750,000 girls in the U.S. ages 15 to 19 become pregnant every year. More than 80 percent of these are unintended pregnancies. Young people ages 15 to 25 contract 19 million STDs annually. Two young people (ages 13 to 29) contract HIV every hour.
Teen pregnancies in Oswego County increased from 198 in 2006 to 239 in 2007, according to Oswego Today. This is a substantial increase as the number had been below 200 since 2002. Even with this increase, Oswego County has a teen pregnancy rate of 37 per 1,000 females ages 15 to 19. What is more disturbing is Oswego County has not mandated any formal sexual education programs in their schools.
The purpose of sex education goes beyond learning about the male and female reproductive systems; it allows students to examine one of the most fundamental aspects of humanity. Comprehensive sexual education allows developing young men and women to examine the physical, emotional and psychological implications of sexuality in their lives and gives them the tools to make informed choices.
The National Conference of State Legislatures, AB 2694/SB 957, a sex-ed policy, “establishes an age-appropriate sex education grant program through the department of health to provide grants to eligible applicants that provide comprehensive, age-appropriate and medically accurate sex education programs.”
In addition, the policy “requires the commissioners of education, health and mental health to establish a comprehensive, medically accurate and age appropriate sex education curriculum to be taught in grades one through 12 in all public and charter schools. It also requires the curriculum be taught within one year of the effective date of this legislature.”
Oswego may want to consider that teens who receive a comprehensive sex education are 50 percent less likely to have an unintended pregnancy than those who receive sex education.
Some parents don’t like to acknowledge their children’s sexuality, but just ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. Children will grow up and start to have feelings and desires that put an end to their little, adorable, innocent stage of life. Not teaching children about sexuality will not stop them from developing and becoming attracted to that girl or guy sitting in front of them in class. It will just leave them confused and full of questions they’ll find answers for elsewhere.
Many parents find contraception to be against their beliefs, which is, of course a free exercise of their rights. However, denying this information to students who don’t share the same beliefs is effectively violating those students’ freedoms to religion and information. According to the NCSL website on sexual policies, 37 states and Washington D.C. make it a requirement that parents consent to sexual education in schools.
Oswego needs to implement sex education programs that include information on birth control methods, sexually transmitted diseases and the emotional issues that can accompany early sexual involvement, teen pregnancy, parenting and sexual assault. These programs do not give students the “green light” to have sex; it simply gives information to those who will decide to have sex.
Responsible information on sexuality allows students to stop viewing sex as an unrealistic ultimate pleasure/ultimate sin dichotomy. Instead, students will view sex for what it truly is: a broad spectrum that encompasses a variety of social, emotional and biological factors. When we inform students on sex, we will be able to form individuals with a clearer sense of what sex, gender and choice means.