Last spring, the Utah House and Senate passed a bill supporting abstinence-only education, a bill that had quite a few supporters in Utah. Governor Gary Herbert quickly put the kibosh on it, a very smart move on his part.
Many parents believe that it should be a topic only taught at home, but why limit it to one place? I don’t believe you can have too much sex education, and the more it’s discussed, the more open people are willing to be. And that’s what we need, an open conversation about sex.
The current policy in schools is sex education with an emphasis on abstinence. According to Utah state code, schools are required to teach “the importance of abstinence from all sexual activity before marriage and fidelity after marriage as methods for preventing certain communicable diseases.” Teachers are not allowed to advocate or encourage use of contraceptives or sex outside of marriage.
There’s nothing wrong with abstinence. In fact, as a religious person, that’s one of the key principles I believe. But let’s be realistic for a moment. I don’t care if you’re in Orem or Las Vegas; teenagers have sex, young adults have sex. Marriage or not, sex happens and the sooner we all accept it, the better.
So what are my issues with abstinence emphasized curriculum? Three major issues come to mind right off the bat.
When you focus on abstinence, you are enabling the spread of STDs, HIV/AIDS and teenage pregnancy. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again; if someone wants to take part in sexual activity, they will, no matter what some adult tells them, so why not teach proper precautions to prevent these things from happening? I feel like most parents aren’t going to teach their teenagers about condoms and birth control because they are the ones that will emphasize abstinence, so where are they going to get that education, and how could it help them in the future?
The guilt complex is something unique to people lacking sexual literacy. When schools don’t teach about sex and talk about it openly, and parents make it seem like something taboo, how is someone not supposed to feel bad about having sex once they do? I’ve heard many stories, and I’m sure you have too, where married couples wait months before they have sex because one or both of the individuals feel guilty and uneasy about having sex. When you grow up with it being such a hush-hush topic, how can you not feel bad once it is “allowed” to happen?
My main point is the lack of knowledge. I have friends, friends of friends and friends of those friends who take part in sexual activities such as oral sex, thinking that nothing can happen because it’s not actually sex. If you are one of those people, let me tell you, you can still get many diseases from it.
The examples go on and on, and frankly it’s quite sad when people don’t understand or know much about such a natural part of life.
The lack of knowledge leads me to something interesting: premarital exams. Some of you are either giving me a nod of comprehension, while some of you (especially if you’re not from Utah) are giving me a really confused look.
A premarital exam is something very common in Utah and is strongly recommended for women getting married who are virgins. This exam isn’t common anywhere else in the country, and I think it is partly because women are expected to know certain things about sex by the time they’re 18 or sexually active (which is when it is recommended for a woman to visit the gynecologist for the first time).
Though some may find it helpful, a premarital exam should not be substitution for sex education.
What happens in a premarital exam? Stay tuned for The Sex Talk Part 2.