Sex Education Delays Teen Sex. But Does It Matter What You Teach?

Health & Wellness on 03.09.12
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Yesterday I lamented Utah's new abstinence-only sex education law, arguing that it is a betrayal of kids who may not learn about sex at home. So when I saw a headline over at LiveScience suggesting that sex education delays teen sex, the self righteous liberal in me rejoiced. Here's a taster from LiveScience:

Teens who receive formal sex education wait longer to have sex, a new study finds — and when they do get around to doing the deed, they're more likely than teens who haven't had sex ed to use contraception.

But while I was quick to read this as validation that abstinence-only sex ed does not work, I should perhaps be more concerned about another aspect of Utah's bill - namely that schools can drop sex education all together.

You see reading a little more about the study, it appears that what kind of sex education kids receive has less impact than simply having sex education at all:

...students who had sex education were more likely to use contraception during their first sexual encounter compared with those who hadn't received sex ed. They also had "healthier partnerships," being less likely to lose their virginity to someone more than three years older or younger than themselves.

The researchers found little difference on these contraception measures between the abstinence-only group and the group who received birth control instruction, although young women who had received birth control instruction were more likely to protect themselves by using condoms during their first intercourse.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I maintain that lawmakers have no right to mandate abstinence-only education in schools. The belief that sex should wait until marriage is an ideological stance, and the world is literally full of people who have fulfilling, healthy and enjoyable sex lives outside the institution of matrimony. (Not forgetting, of course, that some folks aren't allowed to marry.) So it is important that our schools reflect the diversity of our culture when they teach about sex.

Sure, it makes sense  to teach that some people believe in no sex before marriage. But it also makes sense to teach that others do not. What does not makes sense is to withdraw sex education all together, or to spread misinformation and pseudo-science about homosexuality.

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