“At some point in a new administration, sex education, abortion, all that kind of stuff inevitably comes up, and elected officials have to put their money behind where the stance is,” says Dr. Juliana Morris. Sex education has long been a hot topic, especially in our public schools. “Not only does this screw up what’s been built in the previous administration and the education we’re putting forth, but it sets the tone for society at that time too ... it’s so shortsighted, it’s scary.”
Jenny Block, author of "The Ultimate Guide to Solo Sex," compares abstinence-only education to prohibition.
“As soon as we told people they couldn't drink, they started making shit that ate up their insides. It tasted terrible, was dangerous and exploded the stills in people’s homes,” she says. “We need to start with the fact that young people are going to have sex. The option is not not having sex. That's not an option. We have to stop talking about that like it's an option.”
Instead of teaching teens about contraception, prevention of pregnancy and sexually-transmitted infections, conservative lawmakers naively think this no-sex-before-marriage nonsense will work. Yet reports show that young women who’ve taken a virginity pledge have higher rates of HPV and unplanned pregnancy. Still, in August 2017, the Trump administration terminated the Obama-era funded federal Teen Pregnancy Program - against the advice of experts at the Department of Health and Human Services. The reason? The administration called successful bipartisan program, one that helped bring teen pregnancy and birth rates in the U.S. to an all-time low, “ineffective.” Go figure.
Block isn't suggesting that it's a good idea to have sex at whatever age and with whoever you want. “That's not the opposite of abstinence education,” she says. “The opposite is just informing teens about this thing called sex ... because right now we're not teaching them anything. And if we are, then we're teaching them you're only as good as your virginity.”
A head-in-the-sand approach is not only ignorant, it’s harmful. Ditto for piecemeal education. Instead of supporting sexual education programs that work, the Trump administration wants to ask every highly hormonal adolescent in the country to wait until marriage. This is never going to happen.
In other countries, comprehensive, factual sex education has been shown to have huge benefits in how kids behave. By showing students what a healthy relationship looks like and giving them the tools to make informed decisions, we allow them to approach their sex lives from a place of empowerment.
The bottom line is teens are going to do it. “They're not these babies like we're making them out to be,” says Block. “So, my question is: do you want them to do it safely - or not? Those are the two choices, not do you want them to do it – or not.”
Plus, if this budget passes and these changes are made to sex education, it'll put a lot more pressure on the parents, family members and role models in young people's lives to teach them everything they need to know, Dr. Morris says.
“If we’re going to accept this, people have to step up and supplement it and take over.”
So, how do we do this? She suggests by opening up kids’ lives in order for them to start asking us questions – on their own. “Frankly, this generation wants that. They’re going to be annoyed by abstinence-only programs. They’ve progressed past this. How do you, in this day and age of technology, when kids can look up stuff wherever they are, literally, deny them the proper education to sift through what they’re seeing on the internet? This is the generation that needs sex education the most. They need to be armed with information, they need to be able to ask about porn and what they’re learning through porn. And they need to have sex education beyond that, not regressed from it.”