March 25, 2019

Why We Need Better Sex Ed

“Amid America’s reckoning with sexual harassment and violence, gender inequity, and discrimination, sex education is as fraught as it’s ever been. Anyone who received school-based sex ed in the U.S. anytime during the past four decades—including the majority of American students currently in school—might have difficulty relating that education to the massive renegotiation of sex, gender, and power that’s transforming the nation. But sex ed could play a significant role in helping today’s students navigate this transformation. It would just have to look a lot different than it does in most of the U.S. right now.

I spent several years exploring the state of sex ed in the U.S. and elsewhere for my latest book. What I found in America wasn’t great.

As of 2018, fewer than half of U.S. schools require that students receive information about human sexuality. While some states say school-based sex ed must be medically accurate and nonjudgmental, others mandate learning objectives that cast nonmarital sex and homosexuality in a negative light. Only about half of American teenagers who have had sex say they have received any sex ed at all, and just a fifth of American students learn in school how to use a condom correctly. Despite some recent improvement, U.S. teens give birth and contract sexually transmitted infections at much higher rates than teens in other developed countries. And few are learning anything that might help address social ailments such as sexual violence, gender inequity, or homophobia and other intolerances.”

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