Sex education, sometimes referred to as sexuality education, is any process dedicated to providing information about sexual techniques, practices, and health or human sexuality. However, the term is usually used to refer to sex education for children—either at home or in school.
What Is Sex Education?
There is a wide variety of examples of sex education. These include a parent explaining to his or her child where babies come from, a friend telling another friend about how to use a condom, or a teacher lecturing his or her students about the risks of sexually-transmitted diseases. Students in the United States often take sex education classes in middle or high school, and the content of these classes varies widely. Some schools may require parental permission before students can take sex education.
Types of Sex Education
There is significant debate in the United States about the types of sex education children should receive. Sex education can generally be broken down into three categories:
- Abstinence-only sex education teaches children to wait until they are either married or adults to engage in sexual relationships. Students learn the basic mechanics of sex, but do not typically get information on birth control or disease prevention; instead the psychological and physical risks of sex are emphasized, and teachers may discuss ways for students to say no to sex and avoid temptation to have sex. Several studies have demonstrated that abstinence-only education may not be effective and could even increase sexual risk-taking behavior because kids who take abstinence-only education do not know how to use condoms and other forms of sexual protection.
- Health and safety-oriented sex education is sex education that teaches students the mechanics of sex as well as basics of birth control and sexual consent. Students may receive lessons in choosing and using different forms of birth control. This form of sex education focuses primarily on physical well-being, and students who receive this type of education are generally better-equipped to protect themselves, but still might not be prepared for the emotional implications of having sex.
- Comprehensive sex education attempts to address both safety and emotional concerns regarding sex. Students might learn the basics of sexual negotiation and learning how to please a partner and might learn, for example, that many women require clitoral stimulation to orgasm. Comprehensive sex education may also address diverse sexual orientations. Comprehensive sex education is highly controversial, but generally shows the lowest rates of teen pregnancy and STDs, and students who receive it report that they are better-prepared for sex, whether they are waiting until marriage or not.
Sex education for children in the school system varies between states, as demonstrated by these facts and statistics:
- There are 20 states, in addition to the District of Columbia, that mandate schools teach both sex and HIV education. One state mandates schools only teach sex education, and another 13 states teach only HIV education.
- There are 37 states that require sex education contain information about abstinence. Twenty-six of those states stress abstinence, and 11 require only that abstinence be part of sex education.
- Only 18 states, in addition to the District of Columbia, require that sex education programs include information about contraceptives.
- A congressional review in 2004 found that of 13 commonly used abstinence-only curricula, 11 had incorrect, misleading, or distorted information.
- Only 13 states require sex education information presented in schools to be medically and factually accurate.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2006 87% of public and private schools taught abstinence as the most effective method to avoid pregnancy, HIV, and other sexually transmitted diseases.
- A sex education policy study by the CDC in 2006 found that 65% of high schools taught about the effectiveness of condoms, while 39% of high schools taught students how to use a condom.
Parents or students with questions about a school’s sex education offerings may wish to contact the school counselor(s) for additional information.
- Comprehensive sex education. (n.d.). Advocates for Youth. Retrieved from http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/publications/1487
- Facts on American Teens’ Sources of Information About Sex. (2012, February). Guttmacher Institute. Retrieved August 22, 2014, from http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/FB-Teen-Sex-Ed.html#16
- Magoon, K. (2010). Sex education in schools. Edina, MN: ABDO Pub.
- Step, L. S. (2007, April 14). Study casts doubt on abstinence-only programs. Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/13/AR2007041301003.html
Last Updated: 08-25-2015
OksanaAugust 1st, 2017 at 1:14 AM
OksanaAugust 26th, 2017 at 11:41 PM
Good to know
Maria CapistranoJanuary 10th, 2020 at 6:40 PM
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madhaviMarch 29th, 2021 at 11:24 PM
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education for sexDecember 2nd, 2022 at 7:28 AM
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