Teenagers should learn about sex. There, I said it. It’s time for the U.S. education system to put aside the repressive, and frankly, unnecessary, stigma surrounding sex education.
It’s for our own good. Teenagers are doing their own thing and will continue to do their own thing, whether schools admit it or not. So, why not educate us? Why not make sure that we have the knowledge and sense of maturity needed to stay safe in advance?
At Miami Palmetto Senior High, students are lucky enough to hear from the peer educators at the Health Information Project, who typically educate students on the realities of intimacy and how to prepare for it. However, according to Planned Parenthood, only 29 states have mandates requiring schools to teach sexual education at all. What about the other 21? Students should not face punishment because of the state they attend school in.
To all the schools that teach sex education in a positive, shame-free light: good for you. However, before anyone basks in the praise for doing the bare minimum, ask yourself this: does your school teach sexual education in an inclusive way? Much of sex education still falls under a generally heteronormative lens, a dangerous oversight considering that the number of Gen Z students who label themselves as completely straight are lower than any previous generation. Schools must explore the way they go about teaching sex education and ensure that LGTBQ+ students have as much representation in those discussions as do heterosexual students.
Let’s also talk about the abstinence-only education that some U.S. schools shamelessly promote. Sure, abstinence is the only surefire prevention method for unwanted STDs and pregnancies, but it remains extremely irresponsible to assume that teenagers will all remain abstinent, or even that they all should. Studies show that abstinence-only education does not work, and can actually do more harm than good. Instead, every single U.S. high school, private, public or charter, should teach about responsible methods STD and pregnancy prevention; that way, teenagers feel at ease to make the best choice for them.
So far, the sex education system at large in the U.S. has failed students who deserve the tools that open, honest discussions can provide. Instead of sending a group of uniformed students forth into the world unprepared, let’s give them the information they need to stay safe and thrive.