Opinion: Abstinence is (not) the solution


by TerriC, CC0, via Pixabay

Sex education helps prevent long-term issues including teen pregnancy, STIs, and unhealthy relationships.

Nisha Marino, Highlander Editor-in-Chief

For centuries, humans have searched for a solution to unwanted pregnancies. From coitus interruptus to condoms to the infamous Pill, nothing has worked better than good old-fashioned abstinence.

According to Planned Parenthood, there are 18 forms of birth control. Abstinence, the practice of not having sex, is the only form listed as 100 percent effective. This fact, of course, raises a question: If abstinence works, why do people bother teaching children anything else?

Laws about sex education in the U.S. vary widely and are determined by state and city lawmakers. California’s Assembly Bill No. 392 gives parents and guardians the “right to excuse their child from all or part of comprehensive sexual health education, HIV prevention education, and assessments related to that education.”

Despite the overwhelming evidence that comprehensive sexual education, especially ones starting at a young age, helps reduce unsafe sex and unwanted pregnancies, many American parents continue to pull their children out of school programs or refuse to have “The Talk.”

The Netherlands’ Spring Fever week, which begins “comprehensive sex education” at the age of four, provides strong evidence that mandatory sex ed is beneficial. This style of education has led to an improved sense of self-worth in a sexual relationship in teenagers, as well as several positive outcomes in teenagers’ sexual health. The Netherlands have some of the lowest rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections in the world.

Of course, there is a strong argument against sex ed in the U.S., which comes primarily from the Catholic community. Catholic Parents Online argues that “public school sex ed attacks and undermines the religious faith of many students.”

Unfortunately for Catholic Parents Online, public schools in the U.S. operate freely from religious influence.

The Catholic argument against sex ed can be compared to that against evolution. Evolution and sex ed are both backed by science, but avoiding teaching teenagers about their bodies is far more detrimental. Denying evolution does not end in sexually transmitted infections (STI), teen pregnancies, toxic relationships, or misunderstandings of consent.

It’s certainly true that the guidelines and standards for school sex ed should be improved. Some states spread misinformation about LGBTQ relationships or abortion, while others do not require medical accuracy.

But an improved sex ed program could be the solution to the problems of teen pregnancy and unsafe sex. Carlmont’s sex ed program could be used as an example of near-perfection, as freshmen have the opportunity to discuss consent, birth control, and their own anatomy.

Eventually, most people end up having sexual relationships in their lives. With comprehensive, inclusive, and discussion-friendly sex ed, teenagers are given the opportunity to understand their future. If and when they do have sex, let it start and end how they probably want it to: safely, consensually, and with no unexpected outcomes.