If we are not exposed to facts about sex from a young age, we are bound to develop our own personal fictions. Children engage in sexual play and exploration long before they know what sex is. It is both normal and natural for kids to explore their own bodies. It is also normal and natural for them to experience sexual urges, even before puberty.
Here's what we know based on rigorous scientific investigation:
Explicit and comprehensive sex education has not been shown to increase sexual activity in young people or affect the age at which kids start having sex. On the other hand, abstinence-only education does absolutely nothing to decrease the rate of sexually transmitted infections or teen pregnancy.
And yet, federally-funded abstinence programs have been heavily advocated and enforced for the last thirty years, and there is not a shred of evidence to support their efficacy. They simply do not work. In fact, many studies have shown that abstinence-only education is correlated with an increase in teen pregnancy. What do we expect? Teach a child that sex is never okay until he or she is married and then when hormones trump promise rings, guess who is unaware of how or why a condom is so important?
What’s the result? A nation of teens who have sex equally as often as their counterparts in Canada, Great Britain, France, and Sweden, but they get pregnant twice as often. This is such a common problem that it is no longer even seen as controversial. I mean, there’s a show on MTV called "Teen Mom." I’m surprised there’s not one called "Teen With An STD," because sexually transmitted infections are even more common than teen pregnancy. One fourth of teenage girls in this country have a sexually transmitted infection. One in four. That’s your daughter, your sister, your best friend, your girlfriend. That may be you.
Science illuminates sexuality. And that is why it is so important that we learn about our bodies at an early age. Sex is not evil. Sex is not scary, even though data like this makes it feel like it is. The truth is, sex does not always lead to pregnancy or disease. Not when the appropriate measures are taken to prevent them, like condoms, birth control pills, and perhaps the most important oral contraceptive of all: communication. We must not be afraid to talk about sex, to our friends, our children, our parents, our teachers, or our partners.
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