Friday, March 02, 2007

Abstinence

This is going to be a bit of an odd post. I’m writing it because I’ve just seen a documentary on the trend of teaching sexual abstinence in schools, and I want to throw in my two cents.

First of all, I’ll just come right out and say I’m a huge proponent of sex education in schools, and within reason, the younger you start teaching kids the better. Sexual education should be taught as soon as children start going through puberty.

Why? I could knock out the old clichés, “Knowledge is power” and “forewarned is fore-armed”, but I have another, very simply reason.

I remember leaving primary school knowing absolutely nothing about sex. Don’t get me wrong, my parents were very open, and I’m sure if I’d asked, they’d have told me what I wanted to know…but the problem was, I already thought I knew everything.

I’d thought I’d heard everything I needed to know in the schoolyard, but all I actually “knew” was a guy put his penis in a vagina, and 9 months later a baby popped out. I also “knew” about AIDS, only I had no clue what that meant, other than it was a bad thing. I was also under the impression that two uninfected people could have sex, and both get AIDS.

That’s right, I thought sex caused AIDS, not that sex is how AIDS is transmitted.

The truth is kids need to know everything they can about sex. They need to know about the risks, how to avoid them, what can go wrong and why things can go wrong.

I was shocked by this documentary that over a billion dollars a year is spent teaching kids abstinence. Not a billion dollars on sex education. A billion dollars on telling kids not to have sex until they’re married. Nothing about the pill, nothing about condoms (well, the only thing they teach about condoms is that they’re not 100% effective).

So basically, we’re sidestepping the whole issue. We’re teaching them that sex is wrong, dirty and forbidden.

So, the question I have to ask here is: “Do these people have any idea what happens when you tell a teenager not to do something?”

No one likes to think about their kids having sex. However, you need to give kids all the information they’ll need later, early on. Why? So they’re used to discussing it, know they can ask their parents for advice, and not end up in the back seat of a car when they’re 16, having unprotected sex because they don’t know about STD’s… and the guy they’re with told them it’s impossible to get pregnant the first time.

Basically, kids might not listen to their parents, but the people they’ll always listen to is their friends.

So a kid goes to school, is taught that abstinence is the only way, is taught nothing about birth control, protection against STD’s etc, and leaves school believing that sex is dirty, dangerous, and no one in their right mind would do it.

Then they get to college, and one of their friends starts telling them how great sex is, how much fun it is, and how they’ve had sex tons of times and how nothing bad has ever happened to them! So they try it, find it’s not the totally unpleasant experience they’ve been taught, and do it a lot. All the time knowing nothing about Herpes, Chlamydia, HIV etc.

You may have taught your child well, but just in case they do give in to peer pressure or temptation, wouldn’t you feel better knowing that if they do have sex, they’d doing it responsibly and safely? Isn’t that better than them only knowing the schoolyard version of sex education? IE, you can’t get pregnant the first time, only gay people get HIV, you don’t need protection if you pull out in time…all those old chestnuts that are sure to lead them down a bad road.

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with teaching abstinence in school and I believe that abstinence should be taught…but it should be taught along side all the other aspects kids need to know.

The unfortunate truth is, you can preach abstinence all you like, but plenty of teenagers are going to go out and have sex anyway. All sex education is doing is teaching kids to protect themselves.

2 comments:

manda said...

I didn't get to reading the entire article yet, but the thing is people who believe in abstinence believe that the sooner you teach a kid about sex, the sooner they'll want to see what it's all about. When in reality, if a kid's going to have sex, then a kid's gonna have sex and there's nothing teaching abstinence or sex education is going to stop. And you know how it goes, when you tell someone they can't or shouldn't have or do something, the want it even more...

My parents would have told me anything and everything too. But who the hell wants to learn about sex through your parents?!?

Saffyre said...

My mum told me everything when I was around nine years old. This was because I came home with some school yard nonsense that she elt she had to correct.
I was told about it early enough that I was still a litle 'grossed out' by the idea and had no intention of wanting to try it, but when i heard al my friends telling the same tired old myths, I used to set them sraight.
t was a LONG time after I was told that I finally had sex, in fact I was probably older than most people are their first time, I was 19. I genuinely believe that knowing the full truth helped me avoid the pitfalls of curiosity and 'finding out for myself' too early.