I am a student at Montana State University Billings and recently for a class project I, along with another student, put together a clergy panel on women’s reproductive rights and issues. During the panel discussions the topic of sexual education arose, and I was quite shocked at what I learned from members of the audience. Many schools in our area only teach a one-sided sex education curriculum, mainly teaching abstinence.
Although I think that it is a great idea to urge students to wait until marriage for sex, it is impractical to believe that teens are doing so. At that age, as I am sure we all remember, there are curiosities and pressures, etc., and it should be an equal part of the curriculum to teach protection, safe sex and healthy relationships. It is not enough to just tell kids to wait, we need to talk to them about birth control options, the use of condoms as birth control but also protection against STDs and what a healthy relationship looks and feels like.
The latter I think is especially important for young women. Many young women get involved and wrapped up in unhealthy relationships but do not leave because many times they do not or are not willing to recognize they are in one or have the power to leave.
Obviously this would also go beyond sex education classes but overall, we should be educating youth on how to be safe and empowered to stand up for their safety. Teaching young men to respect women’s sexual rights and teaching young women to understand they have the power to say no or to tell their partner to use protection.
Turning a blind eye to teen sexual activity and only teaching abstinence is only adding to the existing problem. There should be better education programs in high school health classes as well as workshops for parents, to help them speak to their children about sex.
Educating our youth and their parents does show to decrease unwanted teen pregnancies. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t having sex, they are just being safe about it. I would like to make it clear here that I am not promoting premarital sex but instead, I am suggesting a more open and honest sexual education program in and out of public education to keep our youth safe and prepared.