It was painful. Sex educators had a prime opportunity to justify why comprehensive sex education is needed in our schools... and it was missed. In light of the Jamie Lynn Spears' pregnancy, Fox News offered up a debate late Wednesday afternoon on if it's right that states are questioning whether or not to accept abstinence-only sex education funding, given the rise in teen pregnancy rates. In the one corner, Dr. Sari Locker, adolescent psychologist and sexologist, who is to be commended for her education efforts over the years; in the other corner, an unknown Republican strategist, with, to the best of my knowledge, no background in sex education.
Round one: The conservative strategist makes the classic, over-abused, and quite ignorant claim of likening any sex education efforts beyond the abstinence-only message to educating youth about drunk driving -- anything beyond the "just say no" message, in her view, is irresponsible and simply encourages sexual behavior. Rather than address this belief with research that supports otherwise, Locker, sounding overly rehearsed with her own talking points, instead highlights what youth want from sex ed -- and rightfully so -- stressing the need to be sex positive (which is definitely a good thing), to be realistic (oui, few youth are waiting 'til marriage to be intimate), and to equip youth with information to protect themselves. But this leaves viewers thinking that the strategist is correct in her ideological "logic."
Round two: The strategist leaps on the sex positive messaging Locker has mentioned, seeing this vision of sex ed as the cultivation of free love -- that people like Locker long to create sex heathens versus sexually healthy adults, which couldn't be farther from the truth. The strategist counters Locker by pointing out that educating youth about contraceptives does not protect them from health ailments like HPV, human papilloma virus (the virus which causes genitals warts and cervical cancer), which, and I must point out she does not point out, can be passed via skin-on-skin contact, in clarifying matters for viewers. Still, the strategist doesn't seem to understand that comprehensive sex education efforts do tackle this point -- that part of educating youth about sexual health, contraceptive use, and the risks involved includes this critical fact. The reason so many youth do not know that they can contract HPV from sexual activity and that they may be putting themselves at risk despite condom use is that they are not receiving medically accurate, comprehensive sex education that gets into all of those nitty gritty details, including responsible prophylactic use!
Round three: The strategist commends Jamie Lynn Spears for keeping her pregnancy, fair enough, while Locker, head still bobbing like a marionette, simply smiles. No effort is made to counter any of the misinformation spewed out of the strategist's mouth. No effort is made to have the last word -- and there were plenty of them to say...
Research on sex education has continually supported comprehensive sex education efforts, proving that such a strategy is correlated with major benefits: it results in increased and more accurate sex knowledge and personal comfort; it renders increased tolerance toward behaviors and personal values; it is correlated with a delay in the onset of sexual intercourse, with learners having sex later in adolescence or in young adulthood, having fewer partners, and engaging in less sexual activity.
Comprehensive sex education is also correlated with an increase in the likelihood of young people not only using contraceptives when they are sexually active, but doing so more effectively and consistently at that. Furthermore, youth who feel that they can talk to their parents about sex, meaning that they can speak openly and listen carefully, are less likely to engage in high-risk behaviors. Research has found that they are more responsible in their behaviors, have better decision-making skills, and have higher self-esteem. Simply put, nothing but good can come out of comprehensive sex education and communicating with your child about sex and relationships. Unfortunately, that was a point neither guest could make on this Fox News show.