The Puritan Influence

In an effort to talk about things that matter to me on this blog I’m giving all of you an excerpt on something that I find extremely important. Quality Sex Education not only saves lives, but drastically would improve the levels of teen pregnancy and STD’s that the US currently has. I’m not going to put the whole essay on here but it is something I am extremely passionate about and hope to one day pass a law that makes comprehensive sex education the standard that American Teenagers and Pre-Teens receive. Currently we receive abstinence based education which is based off of discouraging teens to have sex by providing them with little to no accurate information, and no mentions of contraceptives, consent, what is a healthy and unhealthy relationship outside of warning signs, and all other aspects of what goes on in your body. There is no mention of sexualities other than heterosexual and no mention of any gender identity. Planned Parenthood is out of the question and any actual mention of sex is often shame centered stating that you become dirty or used once you have sex outside of marriage. It is a complex topic, but I believe that all people should receive medically up to date, accurate and complete information about sex, identity, sexuality, consent and a host of other topics. The topic and importance of sex education will probably be brought up again so if this is something you disagree with or do not care please either do not read or comment politely. Thank you.

Below is my introduction and first two body paragraphs.

The Puritan Influence
Why Abstinence Based Sex Education Hurts Our Young Adults
By Kelly Curtis

“Parents do not like to think about their children having sex. When children reach puberty they receive a talk about body hair and periods, but once sex comes into the picture parents may feel awkward and often ignore the subject. Parents might respond with “not my baby” when asked if their teen is sexually active, but there is a fairly high likely that they are incorrect. Abstinence, the education we are predominantly relying on for our teenagers, is not encouraging more of them to wait, but in fact only endangers them when they do have sex. Abstinence, is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as: “ the practice of not doing or having something that is wanted or enjoyable; The practice of abstaining from something,” and this is the definition mostly commonly applied to not having sex. Someone can abstain from anything, for example Christians practice abstinence during Lent which is giving up something enjoyable for a brief period of time, such as chocolate, meat or caffeine. Those who have trouble with alcohol may abstain from drinking it, but when the word is said people’s minds jump most often to sex. Why?, because abstinence based sex-education is the most standard sex education American teenagers receive. This type of education teaches from a premise that more information will lead to increased risky behavior so better to give as little information as possible. This lack of information causes teens and young adults who have been given abstinence based sex education little to no reliable facts about the concept of sex and all that it entails. Consequently, teens who have been given this type of sex education have higher levels of teen pregnancy, sexual transmitted diseases and infections, greater number of rapes and more a pronounced rape culture as a developed country, little understanding of consent, a misunderstanding of gender identity, and a lack inclusive education for minorities. Due to this lack of information, and reluctance to teach adolescents by adults, reform for sex education in America must occur so that our young adults can have a healthy and full understanding of sex as they become adults.

There are two different types of sex education that are taught in the United States public school system. The first is abstinence based education which outlines that “abstinence from sexual activity is the only certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and other associated health problems,” as well as “teaches that a mutually faithful monogamous hetrosexual relationship in the context of marriage is the expected standard of sexual activity” (Advocates for Youth). In thirty-nine states abstinence based education is required and those states believe that the parties solely responsible for teaching children sex education is the family and the church and schools can only supplement that. Idaho is one such state who has this written into law (Idaho Statutes and Sex & HIV Education). This education is most commonly supported by conservative groups who believe that children and young adults would be at a higher risk of engaging in sexual activity if they were taught about it. Some families do not support sex outside of marriage, non-hetrosexual sexualities, or abortion and as such want full control over what their children learn about these topics. As a result most teens who have been taught this style of sex education either supplement it with inaccurate information from the internet, their friends, or they are completely ignorant about these topics.
The other type of sex education that is offered, but far less common, is comprehensive sex education. As stated by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS): “comprehensive sex education includes medically accurate and up to date information on a wide range of topics related to sexuality including human development, relationships, decision making, abstinence, contraception, and disease prevention”. Comprehensive sex education often includes information about STD’s and STI’s, contraceptives, how to properly use condoms, an explanation of abstinence should you choose it for yourself, family communication about sexuality, and how to avoid unwanted sexual advances. Some of these programs have been known to also teach about sexual orientation and gender identity. While numerous studies have found these programs to be successful there is currently no funding by the government to aid them. The argument against comprehensive sex-education, by those who advocate for abstinence sex education is that learning about a wide range of sex related topics undermines traditional family values and the responsibility and choice of the parent or church on what to teach their children.

Twenty-four states including the District of Columbia mandate sex education by law, and only thirty-four out of fifty states, including the District of Columbia, mandate HIV education. Only thirteen states used legislative language requiring that this information be medically accurate and up to date (Sex and HIV Education). The United States has the one highest rates of teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases out of any developed nation. Today the teen birth rate sits at fifty-seven per 1,000 15-19 year olds. (Teen Pregnancy Rates). To give some perspective “New Zealand sits at (51) and England and Wales (47). The lowest rate was in Switzerland (8 per 1,000), followed by the Netherlands (14), Slovenia (14) and Singapore (14)” (Teen Pregnancy Rates). In some studies the United States were as high as some Sub-Saharan African countries in which little to no sex ed is available. Switzerland, with the lowest birth rate, gives wide access to “long-established sex education programs, free family planning services and low-cost emergency contraception are widely available, and sexually active teens are expected to use contraceptives” (Sex and HIV Education). Teens are having sex, but they know how to be safe, and have all the information and resources they need to do so. In direct contrast the U.S also has the highest STD rating of any developed country. A study by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) researcher Catherine Lindsey Satterwhite found “ that HPV is by far the most common STD in the United States, with 14.1 million new HPV infections in 2008 as well as 79.1 million ongoing infections that were already prevalent that year (Health Officials Warn. Think Progress). This same article cites that in 2008 the U.S has over 110 million cases of STD/STI infections (Health Officials Warn. Think Progress). The U.S. Senate “Responsible Education About Life Act” which outlines the national sex education standards found that: “the median age at first intercourse is 16.9 years for boys and 17.4 years for girls. However, most do not marry until their middle or late 20s. This means that young adults are at risk of unwanted pregnancy and STDs for nearly a decade. Therefore, teens need access to full, complete, and medically and factually accurate information regarding sexuality, including contraception, condoms, STD/HIV prevention, and abstinence” (Text S.611). While the Bill lets states determine what program they should have, more often states choose to give their students abstinence education at the urging of parents and various groups. In 2007 three separate groups all released research in support of comprehensive sex education. One study conducted by the Guttmacher Institute and Columbia University, which was published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that while there was an 86% percent decline in teen pregnancies between the years 1995-2002 only 14% was due to decreased sexual activity, and the other 72% was due to increased contraceptive use (SIECUS Fact Sheet). A review of eighty studies of comprehensive sex education programs, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, found the programs to be effective at reducing sexual activity, and increasing contraceptive use while the third study, published in November in the Emerging Answers 2007, by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, found that “two-thirds of the 48 comprehensive programs that supported both abstinence and the use of condoms and contraceptives for sexually active teens had positive behavioral effects.” and that “none of the comprehensive programs hastened the initiation of sex or increased the frequency of sex” (SIECUS Fact Sheet). In comprehensive sex education programs if the teen wishes to be abstinent they can do so but they are armed with the knowledge that if they chose to have sex, they know all the contraceptive manners to protect themselves against any and all unwanted pregnancies and STD’s. In the case of the the teen who has only received abstinence based learning, they are just as likely to have sex as their peer but without any form of contraceptive, and therefore are more at risk for infections and pregnancies than their peer, who knew about contraceptives and understood how to use them.”

*This is original work that I worked very hard on and while the research is not my own, it has been cited correctly. I ask that if you wish to argue it, or use these words that you both ask my permission and cite me.

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